Government Executive reported Wednesday that nearly a dozen former employees of the Defense Contract Audit Agency told them of widespread problems at the agency, which has been embroiled in controversy after Congress' investigative arm issued a scathing report two weeks ago. A dubious set of performance metrics that emphasize rapid auditing has been driving the DCAA to too often avoid conflict with the contractors whose contract proposals, past contract performance and internal control systems the agency audits, the former employees told GovExec.
The last third of the article contains some compelling examples:
The ex-staffer in Minneapolis said a branch manager once asked him to falsify a work paper because the supervisor was concerned that a report was late. Uncomfortable with the request, the former auditor appealed to another boss who instructed him "not to make waves with these people and to do what I was asked." He eventually agreed to falsify the document.
The Minneapolis employee later quit, as did nearly half the new auditors he trained with at the Defense Contract Audit Institute.
Meanwhile, a retired DCAA supervisor with 30 years on the job said he was specifically told not to report fraud. "I was told that I could call the 800 hot line if I wanted," the auditor explained. "However, I was reminded that GS-13 positions were coming open and that if I wanted to be promoted I should not report the fraud outside the agency. I did not call the hot line."
An auditor who worked in the Maryland region for a brief time in 2005 said he was warned early on not to be overtly critical of contractors.
"My understanding was that when contractors complain about any particular auditor, bad things happen to that auditor," said the former auditor, who now works for another federal agency. "When I was there I always had to keep in mind how I interacted with the contractor because if the contractor complained about me it would definitely get back to my supervisor. And there would be some sort of personnel actions or retaliation."
Another former auditor with 25 years of experience in the Philadelphia region said supervisors forced him to change audits because of a fear that delays with a complicated audit could hurt the boss' chances at a bonus.
Sometimes, the requests were more subtle. A former auditor with 17 years of experience in the Houston and Florida regions said supervisors would sit on critical reports for more than a year. Other times, managers would direct him to give contractors extra time before releasing an audit.
"They would say, 'Give them an opportunity to support the findings, give them another chance to support it,'" said the 17-year auditor, who eventually quit the profession because of his experiences at DCAA. "It was a repetitive, 'Don't you think it's getting better?' type pressure. You almost get to the point where you feel you are not going to get anywhere ... This agency is broken."
-- Nick Schwellenbach
P.S. On a related note, we're still receiving a lot of comments and feedback on an earlier blog post about a letter by a DCAA auditor who takes serious issue with the GAO investigation. Click here to join the discussion.