The IG examined the $25.1 million dollar, multi-year EPA service contract titled, “Technical Outreach Support Services for Domestic and Global Climate Initiatives and Global Climate Change Programs.” It found it to be a classic bureaucratic boondoggle – exemplified by the fact that the original signed contract had been lost. In addition to cost overruns, egregious delays, and general disorganization, the IG’s investigation found:
- No skill verification process for contractors. The IG found the EPA to have no uniform process in place to verify contractor personnel qualifications. This lack of verification, says the IG, leaves the agency at risk of not knowing whether contractor performance is adequate, qualified, or conducted at an appropriate cost. When confronted with this inadequacy, EPA staff stated they “relied on personal judgment” or said verification was not required because the professional field was small and there was familiarity among those working in the field.
- Vague or ill-defined deliverables. The IG found EPA contract deliverables to be vague, outside of scope, and with uncertain timelines. Such inadequacies resulted in cost and time overruns. For example, poorly defined deliverables caused one task order to balloon from a cost ceiling of $310,917 to more than $2 million, and the time allotment to be extended by almost three years. Many other tasks were at least 18 months late or failed to include delivery dates at all.
- No contract surveillance plan. The IG found virtually no management or surveillance of the contract’s implementation. The contracting officers had yet to even meet despite the contract being only a few months from completion and both officers residing in Washington, D.C. Without surveillance, says the IG, there is a lack of assurance in the costs, standards, and deliverables in the contract. When confronted with this inadequacy, the EPA contracting officer responded that “the contract clauses constitute the surveillance plan,” an excuse with which the IG wholeheartedly disagreed.
Million dollar contract boondoggles are just the latest example of mismanagement at the EPA. The IG has revealed a string of inadequate internal processes and negligent high-level employees at the agency in recent years. But until Congress recognizes that the same problems that plague the EPA’s service contracts – no skill verification, vague deliverables, no surveillance, and general bungling – also plague the EPA as whole, we can expect little to change.