While auditing for potential violations of contracting regulations, the Inspector General (IG) for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) found weaknesses in the administration of the $22.3 billion Transformation Twenty-One Total Technology Next Generation (T4NG) contract.
The IG’s report, released Thursday, June 13, did not identify any violated laws or regulations, but found weaknesses in procedures at VA’s Technology Acquisition Center (TAC) that made violations more likely.
“The audit team identified deficiencies relating to administration and award procedures performed by program office and TAC personnel for T4NG contract task orders worth as much as $82.5 million. These deficiencies were caused by weaknesses in the administration of existing task orders by program offices and TAC contracting staff not following procedures, as well as lack of due diligence in performing procedures prior to awarding T4NG contract task order,” the report states.
The audit found that many contracting officer representatives did not keep track of whether contractor services were acceptable, as they believed the authorized invoices sufficed. However, the report notes that “invoice payment equals acceptance, not acceptability.” Contracting officer representatives noted that they reviewed deliverables, but the lack of documents led the inspector general to classify $37.5 million in spending as improper payments.
“Maintaining adequate documentation to indicate contractor deliverables were acceptable is necessary to prevent improper payments,” the IG stated.
The audit also found that assessments of contractor services were delayed for some of the contractor performance assessments. While no regulations exist around the timeliness of assessments, the report highlights how VA contracting practices are on the Government Accountability Office’s High Risk List. The report also applies the expected standard of 15 days to previous task orders, finding 88 performance assessments were not submitted within the expected timeframe, totaling $387.1 million in spending.
“Nearly all [contracting officer representatives] interviewed were unable to identify any required submission date, although TAC management and contracting officers had expectations of submission within 15 working days,” the IG found.
Finally, the audit found inconsistencies in reviewing past performance information, which was part of TAC regulations for a large part of the audit but not VA policy, and no extra oversight for contractors with medium-high financial stability risks.
The report made nine recommendations to remedy the above issues, all of which the VA concurred with.