7 agencies where contract spending sped up despite the sequester

Overall, the federal government’s spending on contracts was down 11 percent last year, Bloomberg reported April 22, 2014.

The sequester, other budget cuts, and the drawdown in Iraq and Afghanistan took a toll on spending at 12 of 19 major agencies, with Defense Department spending down nearly 15 percent  over fiscal 2012 and business with the U.S. Agency for International Development down 17 percent.

But seven departments managed to buck the general downward trend. They are:

1)      Homeland Security (2.1 percent increase over fiscal 2012)

2)      Health and Human Services (4.6 percent increase)

3)      Veterans Affairs (5.3 percent increase)

4)      Justice (7 percent increase)

5)      Housing and Urban Development (9.5 percent increase)

6)      Treasury (16.4 percent increase)

7)      Education (27 percent increase)

This article may be found at:  http://www.govexec.com/contracting/2014/04/7-agencies-where-contract-spending-sped-despite-sequester/82987

Major departments seek continuous monitoring acquisition independence from DHS

Some federal agencies are choosing to buy continuous monitoring tools independently of the Homeland Security Department’s Continuous Diagnostics and Mitigation Program despite forfeiting DHS procurement money for those tools when doing so.

Those agencies have sought and received a “delegation of procurement authority” from the CDM program. That means they are able to use the blanket purchase agreements for security tools set up by GSA for the CDM program. But, if they exercise the delegation by buying tools themselves rather than through program office, they do it “with their own money,” said Jim Piché, a GSA acquisition manager newly appointed to overseeing the blanket purchase agreements.

A GSA spokeswoman said the agency won’t release a list of the agencies that received a delegation.Piché spoke Wednesday during a Washington, D.C. industry-sponsored panel on the program.

An industry source says agencies with a delegation include the departments of Agriculture, Homeland Security, Justice and Veterans Affairs.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.fiercegovernmentit.com/story/major-departments-seek-continuous-monitoring-acquisition-independence-dhs/2014-03-19

OPM: Contractors will no longer review their own background checks

The federal government will no longer use contractors to review the quality of their own background checks, instead relying on its own employees to do the audits.

Office of Personnel Management Director Katherine Archuleta said in a statement on Thursday that she would make the process ”fully federalized” starting on Feb. 24. “This decision acts as an internal quality control preventing any contractor from performing the final quality review of its own work,” she said.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/federal-eye/wp/2014/02/07/opm-contractors-will-no-longer-review-their-own-background-checks/?wpisrc=nl_fed 

Audit planned in fraud case as Navy reinstates shipper

The Navy has quietly lifted the suspension of a shipping contractor under investigation for possible fraud, allowing the company to compete for new work. In exchange, the company has agreed to pay for an independent audit that could help the Justice Department determine how much it may have overcharged the government.

Records show that the Navy recently decided to reinstate Inchcape Shipping Services, a company based in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. The move came after a federal judge questioned whether the service had presented enough evidence to justify the suspension.

Contracting experts said it was unusual for the government to turn to an outside auditor in this type of case, and some questioned whether an independent firm could do as thorough a job.

The auditing firm must be approved by the Justice Department, which is conducting a civil fraud inquiry into whether the company systematically overcharged the Navy in providing provisions and sewage-removal services for warships in the Middle East and Africa. Officials said the audit could help spur settlement talks between Inchcape and the Justice Department.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/01/us/navy-contractor.html?_r=0 

Top contractor for background checks charged with fraud

The contractor that performed federal background checks on such headline personalities as National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden and Navy Yard shooter Aaron Alexis has been accused of fraud by the Justice Department.

Falls Church, Va.,-based USIS, which had already been the subject of a False Claims Act suit filed by former employee Blake Percival, drew the intervention from Justice’s Civil Division because it “failed to perform quality control reviews in connection with its background investigations for the U.S. Office of Personnel Management,” Justice said in a complaint filed Wednesday.

Under the False Claims Act’s qui tam, or whistleblower provisions, a private party is eligible to sue on the government’s behalf and may receive a financial settlement. After a preliminary investigation of Percival’s claims, the department asked a U.S. District Court in Alabama to allow it to file its own complaint against USIS by Jan. 22, 2014.

“We will not tolerate shortcuts taken by companies that we have entrusted with vetting individuals to be given access to our country’s sensitive and secret information,” Assistant Attorney General Stuart Delery said in the complaint, which was prepared last fall. “The Justice Department will take action against those who charge the taxpayers for services they failed to provide, especially when their nonperformance could place our country’s security at risk.”

Keep reading this article at: http://www.govexec.com/contracting/2014/01/top-contractor-background-checks-charged-fraud/77453/?oref=govexec_today_nl

Expect sequestration to hit much harder in 2014, report says

Less severe cuts, deferred costs and temporary solutions mitigated sequestration’s effect in its inaugural year, but will not help lessen the impact in 2014, according to a new report.

The Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank, said the tactics federal agencies used to reduce furloughs in fiscal 2013 are, in many cases, no longer available. In fact, they will largely accentuate the severity of the cuts this time around.

For example, Congress allowed the Federal Aviation Administration to move funds from an account meant to provide maintenance to airports nationwide to avoid furloughs of air traffic controllers that would have delayed flights. Similar budgetary “gimmicks” were employed at the Agriculture Department to stave off furloughs of meat inspectors and by the Justice Department, which has already announced plans of 10 furlough days for FBI agents in 2014.

Every major federal agency reduced its furlough projections in fiscal 2013, though that will likely be impossible this year, the report found.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.govexec.com/management/2013/11/expect-sequestration-hit-much-harder-2014-report-says/74366 

How agencies bury noncompetitive procurements

I get a daily FedBizOpps feed of widget and gadget procurements and awards, and have spent literally hours the past two days poring through year-end sole source contract awards.

These are taxpayer dollars expended in an end-of-fiscal-year “use it or lose it” frenzy, but eyeballing these sole source awards is a manual process that requires opening multiple windows to divine what agencies bought and how much they spent.

In many cases agencies don’t disclose what they spent on the sole source contracts, which raises my reporter antenna.

The justification for these non-competitive awards all contain standard boiler plate language — only Vendor X can supply the gadget, software or service and if the contract is not extended or the gizmo acquired, vital operations will cease, often with a threat to national security.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.nextgov.com/defense/whats-brewin/2013/09/how-agencies-bury-noncompetitive-contracts/70834

 

Vendor settles in case over Chinese-made supplies

When contractor Malcolm Wilson lost out in a competition to outfit four federal buildings in Illinois with lamps, he suspected the winning vendor of supplying products made in China, a violation of the Trade Agreements Act.

To find out, he filed a Freedom of Information Act with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which oversaw the project, to learn the model of lamp the competitor was supplying, then sent an email to the lamp maker asking where the product as made.

China, the manufacturer responded.

One year after Wilson filed a False Claims Act lawsuit against the competitor, Supplies Now Inc., the company agreed to pay $270,000 to resolve the case, according to the General Services Administration’s Office of Inspector General, which announced the July 30 settlement Monday.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.federaltimes.com/article/20130805/ACQUISITION01/308050010/Vendor-settles-case-over-Chinese-made-supplies#

Feds investigate office supply vendor

The government is investigating whether an office supply contractor has been improperly selling products made in China in violation of the Trade Agreements Act, court records show.

The General Services Administration’s inspector general’s office has been investigating Florida-based Capitol Supply Inc. for more than two years, according to a motion the IG filed earlier this week in U.S. District Court in Washington. The motion asks a judge to force Capitol Supply Inc. to turn over billing, sales and other information in response to two subpoenas.

Separately, the Justice Department this week joined in a False Claims Act lawsuit filed against Capitol Supply. The suit, filed back in 2010 but unsealed on Monday, accuses the company of selling illegal office products to the government.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.federaltimes.com/article/20130418/ACQUISITION03/304180004/Feds-investigate-office-supply-vendor

Possible USAID bid rigging investigated

The Justice Department is conducting an investigation into possible contract rigging by the general counsel at the government agency that distributes foreign aid, documents obtained by The Associated Press show.

Memos from the inspector general of the U.S. Agency for International Development also reveal that there was evidence that Deputy Administrator Donald Steinberg tried to interfere with an internal investigation.

The inspector general’s office told a House committee on Wednesday that the Justice Department investigation was “ongoing.”

An attorney for the USAID general counsel, Lisa Gomer, said Thursday night that he was told the Justice Department decided not to initiate a criminal investigation. He declined to say who in the department informed him there was no probe.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.usnews.com/news/politics/articles/2013/01/24/ap-exclusive-govt-probes-possible-usaid-bid-rigs