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Designation of Contracting Officer's Representatives and Oversight Framework Could Be Improved for Contracts in Afghanistan DODIG-2016-131

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Objective

We determined whether contracting officer’s representatives (CORs) were properly appointed and trained, and were able to effectively perform their oversight responsibilities for contracts performed in Afghanistan. A COR is an individual designated by a Government contracting officer to perform specific technical or administrative functions for Government contracts.

We performed this audit in response to a February 2015 U.S. Forces−Afghanistan policy memorandum requesting the DoD Office of Inspector General to review COR performance in the Combined/ Joint Operations Area−Afghanistan. We nonstatistically selected 16 contracts, some with multiple CORs.

Findings

We determined that CORs in Afghanistan generally met training requirements. However, we determined that CORs were not properly appointed after COR designation guidelines were revised. None of the 24 COR designation letters dated after DoD guidelines for designation letters were revised in March 2015 met the additional requirements included in the revised guidelines. Specifically, the designation letters did not include certification that the COR met qualification requirements, identify all required contractual information, address standards of conduct or conflicts of interest, and were not signed by the COR’s management. CORs were not appointed in accordance with DoD guidelines because the contracting activities did not update COR policies or standardized appointment documentation. As a result, CORs may not be fully aware of contract requirements and the importance of contract oversight to the requiring activity. The designation letter is the written notification from the contracting officer to the COR specifying the extent of the COR’s authority to act on behalf of the contracting officer, and the omission of the required elements may result in CORs being unaware of the responsibilities they are agreeing to perform.

CORs and in-country representatives1 could effectively perform oversight on 12 of 16 contracts. However, for 4 of 16 contracts, the contracting activities did not establish an effective oversight framework to ensure contracted services conformed to contract requirements. Specifically:

  • A U.S. Naval Sea Systems contract did not have a quality assurance surveillance plan because the contracting officer did not follow Defense acquisition guidelines.
  • An in-country representative for a U.S. Naval Sea Systems contract did not receive guidance on oversight duties from the COR because the quality assurance surveillance plan did not specify oversight responsibilities for in-country representatives.
  • One COR assigned to two contracts for U.S. Army Contracting Command–Rock Island was also assigned to multiple other contracts and performed many other duties, and may not have had sufficient time to perform all COR oversight responsibilities.

Without a strong oversight framework, the contracting activities had limited assurance that these four contractors were meeting the performance standards required by the contracts.

Three contracting activities took corrective action as a result of our audit. Specifically, U.S. Transportation Command, U.S. Special Operations Command, and the Defense Contract Management Agency revised their instructions to ensure COR designation letters followed the revised DoD guidelines.

Recommendations

We recommend that officials from Defense Procurement and Acquisition Policy, Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics, update their contract management system and the COR designation sample template form to include all DoD requirements. We also recommend that officials from U.S. Army Contracting Command–Rock Island, U.S. Army Contracting Command–Aberdeen Proving Ground,2 U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and U.S. Naval Sea Systems develop guidance that requires contracting officers to review all future COR designation letters for contracts in Afghanistan for compliance with DoD guidelines before issuance. In addition, we recommend that all six contracting activities included in the audit review all their COR designation letters for contracts in Afghanistan produced since the issuance of revised DoD guidelines for designation letters and before the implementation of the activities’ revised contracting policies to confirm that the letters comply with DoD guidelines. We recommend that the activities issue updated designation letters to address all requirements in the revised DoD guidelines.

We recommend that officials from U.S. Naval Sea Systems issue guidance to contracting officers to obtain a quality assurance surveillance plan for all service contracts, and ensure that the plan includes specific oversight responsibilities for in-country representatives when the COR is based outside Afghanistan. Finally, we recommend that officials from U.S. Army Contracting Command–Rock Island coordinate with the requiring activities to ensure nominated CORs have sufficient time to perform oversight responsibilities.

Management Comments and Our Response

Comments from officials at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Naval Sea Systems Command, and U.S. Transportation Command addressed all specifics of the recommendations and no further comments are required.

The Executive Director, U.S. Army Contracting Command-Rock Island, and the Executive Director, U.S. Army Contracting Command-Aberdeen Proving Ground submitted comments on the draft report too late to include them in the final report. The Director, Defense Procurement and Acquisition Policy, Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics, and the Commander, U.S. Special Operations Command, did not respond to the recommendations in the report. We request that these officials provide comments in response to this report.


1 An in-country representative is a Government official who validates requirements for contract performance in his or her country of residence and coordinates with the requiring activity and the COR in the continental United States.

2 Contracts for U.S. Army Communications–Electronics Command were managed by U.S. Army Contracting Command–Aberdeen Proving Ground.

This report is a result of Project No. D2015-D000JB-0239.000.