Government Operations:

H.R. 7674, The Consultant Reform Act of 1980

Published: Aug 25, 1980. Publicly Released: Aug 25, 1980.

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GAO believes that the proper use of consulting services is a legitimate and economical way to improve Government services and operations. Agencies must continue to have the option of using consulting services where appropriate. They have a legitimate need for access to the best expertise and advice available from the private sector to assist in carrying out a growing number of complex Federal programs. While GAO could not support the proposed legislation in its present form, it did support the general intent of the bill to reform consultant practices. Of primary concern to GAO was the enormous paperwork that would be required by certain sections and the need for the bill to give additional recognition to the fact that solutions to consultant abuse can only be achieved by improved agency management. GAO fully supports the policy statements regarding: (1) governmental policy-making and decisionmaking; (2) competition; and (3) the sometimes obscure fact that the Government, and ultimately the taxpayer, bears the cost of governmental activities regardless of whether they are performed in the private or public sector. A major purpose of the bill is to clarify the authority for appointing and compensating experts and consultants. The bill should be amended to provide greater uniformity in the compensation of experts and consultants and to clear up the confusion agencies experienced with the authority. GAO believes the language may be misinterpreted as a procurement authority and should be deleted. The organizational conflict-of-interest section of the bill requires a careful balancing of the Government's need for private sector expertise with the need for reasonable controls to prevent a conflict of interest that could affect a contractor's ability to give impartial advice. GAO would like to see the scope of the disclosure requirement changed from applying to all contracts for goods ans services to just those categories of contracts where the potential for conflict is the greatest. GAO believes that it is critical for agencies to assess the quality and use made of consulting services, including an appropriate justification for failing to use results of these services. GAO suggested that the bill specify that evaluations be approved by an agency official at least two levels above that of the program manager responsible for monitoring a contractor's performance.

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