[Questions Regarding DOE and EPA Use of Contractors]

B-237356: Published: Dec 29, 1989. Publicly Released: Dec 29, 1989.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO commented on whether the Department of Energy (DOE) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) were using contractor personnel to perform inherently governmental functions. GAO noted that: (1) Office of Management and Budget (OMB) guidelines on contracting for government commercial activities prohibited agencies from contracting for inherently governmental functions; (2) DOE contracted for hearing examiners and personnel security examiners, contending that the examiners made recommendations in an advisory capacity; (3) GAO and OMB believed that the examiners should be government personnel, since they considered evidence and made specific rulings on factual questions; (4) DOE contracted for assistance in preparing congressional testimony, which appeared to violate its own regulations and constituted an inherently governmental function; and (5) EPA contracted for the operation of a telephone hotline to answer questions from the public regarding environmental laws.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: EPA did review the contract and added language requiring legal or highly technical questions be referred to appropriate EPA staff.

    Recommendation: EPA should review the contract and, if necessary, modify it to ensure that the contractor does not provide original interpretations of EPA regulations.

    Agency Affected: Environmental Protection Agency

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Effective February 1990, EPA stated it had implemented the procedure of requiring contractor personnel to identify themselves as such to all callers.

    Recommendation: EPA should require the contractor to identify to all callers that the hotline is staffed by contractor personnel and that interpretations of EPA regulations must be handled by EPA personnel.

    Agency Affected: Environmental Protection Agency


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