A Washington Post front-pager on Wednesday reported on an internal DHS report that found extensive problems with contracting activities at the Department. From the story:
The confidential report, delivered to department officials in March, focused on spending in fiscal 2005 by the Office of Procurement Operations. During that period, nearly $17.5 billion was spent department-wide on contracts for a variety of goods and services, including security at airports and borders, radiation-detection monitors, and information technology consultants.
….The firm hired to write the report, Acquisition Solutions, examined a sample of 72 contract files for DHS, which wanted to determine whether it was following federal contracting laws and internal policies.
At the outset, the team of acquisition specialists could not locate 33 of the 72 contract files it had selected for the review, so the consultants had to select 33 others.
“The files were extremely difficult to locate and were organized in an inconsistent manner,” they wrote.
The consultants sharply criticized an array of contracting procedures. Of the 72 contract files reviewed, only 14 were deemed to be in “excellent” shape. Those files contained evidence that the contracts were awarded with adequate competition and represented the best deal for taxpayers.
Forty-seven files met only “minimum” standards and showed little evidence of fair and reasonable pricing or supervision by contracting officials.
Eleven files were deemed to be “seriously inadequate,” with key documents missing or incomplete and little evidence that the contracts were competitively awarded or prices were justified.
This story seems consistent with a lot of the prior reportage about DHS contracting practices over the past three years, and has largely been a function of the under-staffing of procurement offices around the Department, something that DHS has worked to address in the last couple of years. There have clearly been problems with contracting at DHS, but it’s difficult to really assess this story further without knowing more about the contents of the report, e.g. what contracts were examined, and in which ways were some of them deficient. Hopefully DHS or the Post will release the full report and provide this additional context.