Numerous Iraq task orders fall outside the scope of their contracts

Numerous orders for Iraqi reconstruction tasks fall outside the scope of the contracts under which the task orders were awarded, according to a General Accounting Office report published Tuesday.

The GAO reviewed 11 task orders and found that seven were wholly or partly out of scope. The out-of-scope task orders included two awarded to Science Applications International Corp. of San Diego.

The SAIC task orders, awarded by the Defense Contracting Command-Washington, are for developing a news media capability and for recruiting subject matter experts and providing them with travel and logistical support. Together the task orders are worth more than $107 million, according to GAO.

SAIC declined to answer questions about the contracts.

Other out-of-scope task orders identified by GAO include ones for contingency support planning for restoration of the Iraqi oil infrastructure and for repairing and restoring the Iraqi electrical infrastructure.

All of the out-of-scope task orders "should have been separately competed, or, alternatively, justified and approved at the required official level," Comptroller General David Walker testified Tuesday at a House Government Reform Committee hearing.

Given the urgent need for help with Iraqi reconstruction efforts, it's likely the out-of-scope work would have been approved under contracting law exemptions, but such justifications "needed to be made and documented to comply with the law and protect taxpayer's interests," Walker said.

Numerous government entities, including the House Government Reform Committee, General Services Administration and Defense Contract Audit Agency, are investigating out-of-scope contracting.

The problem came to light last year when GSA's Federal Technology Service was found to have awarded construction work under an IT contract. More recently, the Army used a GSA IT contract to buy interrogation services from CACI International Inc. of Arlington, Va.

Under federal law, task orders satisfy the government's requirements for competition among vendors if the orders are within the scope, period of performance and maximum value of an underlying contract. According to GAO, the maximum value and period of performance usually can be objectively determined. However, the scope of a contract is a subjective determination by the contracting officer, GAO said.

"The key factor is whether the new work is something potential offerers reasonably could have anticipated in the competition for the underlying contract," the GAO report said.

The SAIC task orders were awarded under a GSA schedule contract for management, organizational and business improvement services.

"In our view, the statements of work for both task orders were outside the scope of the schedule contract, which typically would encompass work such as consultation, facilitation, and survey services," the report said.

GAO recommended that the secretary of the Army review the out-of-scope task orders for Iraqi media and subject matter experts issued by the Defense Contracting Command-Washington and take any necessary remedial actions.

In its response to the GAO report, DOD said the Defense Contracting Command-Washington "is taking all available remedial actions, including documenting files, taking corrective actions, and revising the Justification and Approvals as appropriate. In addition, DCCW is including scope issues in the ongoing training that is being conducted with contracting staff."

GSA responded to the report by saying that it plans this summer to start an in-depth review of how agency acquisition personnel are using GSA schedules. GSA said the review will help in improving its training in use of the schedules.

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