Inspectors general feud over VA official’s alleged contract steering

Two federal watchdogs are feuding over the legitimacy of a scathing report last year on questionable contracts at the Department of Veterans Affairs, causing a rare rift between government accountability offices.

Treasury Department Inspector General Eric Thorson issued a letter to House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller (R-Fla.) last week contesting findings of misconduct by former VA procurement officer Iris Cooper, now a top contracting official with Treasury.

A report last year from VA Inspector General Richard Griffin accused Cooper of steering $15 million in contracts to a friend’s company and ensuring that the deals would be non-competitive. It also alleged that she showed a “lack of candor” with investigators.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/federal-eye/wp/2015/03/16/inspectors-general-feud-over-va-officials-alleged-contract-steering/

AF lifts suspension of reverse auctioneer FedBid

Just a few weeks after the Air Force suspended contracts with FedBid, a Vienna, Va. reverse-auction company and requested the company’s debarment, the service lifted the suspension after reaching an administrative agreement, according to a Feb. 20, 2015 Air Force document.

The suspension stems from a Veterans Affairs Department inspector general report that said Susan Taylor, Veterans Health Administration deputy procurement officer, pressured staff repeatedly in emails to speed up the acquisition process and pick FedBid for the reverse auction contracts.

The IG report says Taylor, “improperly disclosed non-public VA information to unauthorized persons, misused her position and VA resources for private gain, and engaged in a prohibited personnel practice when she recommended that a subordinate senior executive service employee be removed from SES during her probation period.”

The agreement will end both the suspension and debarment proceedings as long as FedBid “maintains the business honesty and integrity required of a government contractor and that the company operates in strict compliance with all applicable laws, regulations and terms of its governance contracts and subcontracts.”

Keep reading this article at: http://www.fiercegovernment.com/story/air-force-lifts-suspension-fedbid/2015-02-23

IG: Navy and Marine Corps reasonably justified IT contracts with little or no competition

The Navy and Marine Corps reasonably justified about $220 million worth of IT contracts that were solicited without full and open competition, says the Defense Department’s inspector general in a report issued Jan. 23.

The IG reviewed 66 Navy and Marine Corps IT contracts that used “other than full and open competition” to procure technology services, with 34 being sole-source contracts and the other 32 limiting competition in some way.

The 34 sole-source contracts were valued at $151.5 million, with the rest coming in around $70 million, the report says.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.fiercegovernmentit.com/story/ig-navy-and-marine-corps-justified-it-contracts-little-or-no-competition/2015-01-26

VA still needs to improve oversight of project management system for IT projects, audit says

The Veterans Affairs Department has taken steps to improve a project management process designed to make sure its IT projects are completed and delivered on time, but an internal audit found that accountability and oversight still need to be strengthened.

The department’s inspector general issued a follow-up audit Jan. 22, 2015 to the development of the Project Management Accountability System, or PMAS, that was begun back in 2009.

“PMAS represented a major shift from the way VA historically planned and managed IT projects because it focuses on delivering functionality in increments instead of delivering a complete product at the end of the project,” the IG’s report said.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.fiercegovernmentit.com/story/va-still-needs-improve-oversight-project-management-system-it-projects-audi/2015-01-26

Air Force suspends, begins debarment process of reverse-auctioneer FedBid

The Air Force has suspended FedBid from federal procurement activity, both new contracts and follow-ons, as of Jan. 26, 2015 and proposed the reverse auction company for debarment.

FedBid’s listing in the System for Award Management (SAM) says the Air Force suspended and is proposing debarment with proceedings pending.

The Air Force wrote in the listing on SAM that it deemed FedBid ineligible for new contracts or follow-on deals “based upon adequate evidence of conduct indicating a lack of business honesty or integrity, or a lack of business integrity, or regulation, statute, executive order or other legal authority, pending completion of an investigation and/or legal proceedings.”

“As promised in our previous reporting on VA’s contracting and relationship with FedBid, the OIG referred FedBid to the Interagency Suspension and Debarment Committee for an independent decision whether the company should be debarred. Through the Committee’s processes the Department of the Air Force agreed to be the lead agency,” said an VA OIG spokesperson in an email to Federal News Radio.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.federalnewsradio.com/395/3789803/Air-Force-suspends-begins-debarment-process-of-FedBid-

Audit: HHS failure to screen Obamacare contract recipients cost taxpayers $400M

Not even good enough for government work.

An internal investigation into how the federal government awarded contracts for developing and building the Affordable Care Act’s most important public element — the online exchanges that were to be used by millions of Americans to purchase health insurance — has found the process was fraught with obvious and expensive errors.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) failed to conduct background checks on prior work by companies awarded many of the Obamacare contracts and failed to require those same companies to be accountable for cost overruns, leaving taxpayers on the hook instead.

The report published Jan. 22, 2015 by the Office of the Inspector General for HHS concludes those mistakes soaked taxpayers for more than $400 million in unexpected costs — essentially doubling the expected cost of building the exchanges in the first place.

Keep reading this article at: http://watchdog.org/194839/obamacare-contracts-cost-taxpayers/

Former security contractor CEO agrees to pay $4.5 million to settle civil claims

Keith Hedman, 55, of Arlington, Virginia, the former chief executive officer of a Virginia-based security contracting firm, Protection Strategies, Inc. has agreed to pay $4.5 million to settle civil claims relating to his involvement in a fraudulent scheme to create a front company to obtain contracts through the Small Business Administration’s Section 8(a) program.  The Section 8(a) program allows qualified small businesses to receive sole-source and competitive-bid contracts set aside for minority-owned and disadvantaged small businesses.

Dana J. Boente, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, made the announcement after the settlement agreement was signed by both parties. “The civil settlement illustrates the importance of not stopping at a criminal resolution when a defendant has pled guilty to fraud against the government,” said U.S. Attorney Boente.

The settlement resolves civil claims against Hedman relating to the criminal plea entered by him in U.S. v. Hedman,1:13cr74. According to court records, in or about 2001 Hedman formed PSI, which was approved to participate in the 8(a) program based on the 8(a) eligibility of its listed president and CEO, an African-American female. When the listed president and CEO left PSI in 2003, Hedman became its sole owner, and the company was no longer 8(a)-eligible.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.alexandrianews.org/former-security-contractor-ceo-agrees-to-pay-4-5-million-to-settle-civil-claims/

 

IG says VA official inappropriately steered contracts before moving to Treasury

A former top procurement official at the Department of Veterans Affairs — who now holds a similar position at the Treasury Department — steered contracts to a company with which she had a personal relationship, according to a watchdog report.

In concert with a VA colleague, Iris Cooper “preselected” the company, Tridec Technologies, then divided the work up into separate, smaller contracts that stayed below a threshold that allowed them to be awarded without competition, according to the agency’s Inspector General. In all, the Ohio-based company won more than $15 million in work since 2009 to help build an online acquisitions site

VA sealThe IG’s report is the second in recent months to accuse a top-ranking VA acquisitions official of improperly steering contracts. In September, the IG said that another VA contracting officer sought to improperly benefit Vienna-based FedBid. She resigned after the report became public.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/federal-eye/wp/2014/12/18/report-va-official-inappropriately-steered-contracts-before-moving-to-treasury/

Patent & Trademark Office lacks oversight of time-and-materials contracts, says IG

The Patent and Trademark Office didn’t follow best practices when monitoring its time-and-materials contracts for the amount of work done by a contractor, says a Dec. 3 Commerce Department inspector general report.

The IG reviewed 103 contracts worth $35.4 million and found that $24.6 million in contracts lacked the proper oversight to determine whether payments made to the contractors were warranted.

In a time and materials contract, the government agrees to be billed by a contractor for the work performed as well as the materials used.

Contracting officers often did not prepare service level agreements, which define the scope of the service, and the managers didn’t maintain documentation of contractor performance, the report says.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.fiercegovernment.com/story/ig-uspto-lacks-oversight-time-and-materials-contracts/2014-12-09

Why did this federal lab pay 42 different prices for the same computer?

The Energy Department could save $2 million a year by better managing its information technology hardware, according to the agency’s inspector general.

One of the problems uncovered by the watchdog is a wide variation in the prices the department pays for the same technology across and even within agencies.

The Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, for instance, paid 42 different prices — between about $900 and over $2,000 — for the same desktop model in 2012, the IG found. The machines did, however, have varying configurations.

Since previous audits, the department has to some extent tried to standardize equipment buys, but IT purchasing remains problematic.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.nextgov.com/cio-briefing/2014/11/year-federal-lab-paid-42-different-prices-same-computer/98237