Internal Control Weaknesses at Department of Energy Research Laboratories

AFMD-83-38: Published: Dec 15, 1982. Publicly Released: Dec 15, 1982.

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GAO was asked to review selected functional areas at several Department of Energy (DOE) research laboratories; these areas included internal controls over procurement, property management, and payroll.

GAO found that: (1) DOE headquarters directed Government Owned Contract Operated (GOCO) research laboratories to procure the services of specific consultants and consulting firms, thereby circumventing effective procurement controls; and (2) laboratories improperly subcontracted for consultants and other professionals. GAO also noted that, in some cases, several practices involving subcontracting for consultants appear to have led to waste or misuse of Federal funds.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOE has not established "clear minimum procurement requirements for its operating contractors." It advised GAO that it continues to utilize its Contractor Procurement System Reviews (CPSR's) to maintain oversight of the research laboratories procurement actions. The CPSR's have been concentrating on potential problems noted in the report but show no need for any action.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Energy should establish clear, minimum procurement requirements to be used by operating contractors, in meeting the intent of Federal Procurement Regulations, such as specific criteria for: (1) sole-source procurements; (2) using subcontractors for professional services; (3) approving payments for work done by subcontractors; and (4) hiring former employees as consultants. Also, these criteria should clearly prohibit situations where subcontractors start work prior to the execution of contracts.

    Agency Affected: Department of Energy

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Energy should require the operations office to more closely monitor operating contractors' procurements by (1) improving the effectiveness of the systems reviews; and (2) lowering the monetary threshold for the advance review and approval of professional services enough to include a significant number of those contracts.

    Agency Affected: Department of Energy

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Energy should require the operating contractors to establish and implement appropriate property management controls that will ensure that contractors: (1) adhere to DOE inventory intervals, specifically 2-year cycles for capital equipment and a 1-year cycle for sensitive or theft-prone items; (2) provide for segregation of duties between the custodial and inventory functions, that is, individuals having custody of property should not be responsible for taking inventory of that property; (3) maintain accountability over property by classifying theft-prone items over $500 as sensitive items, identifying and tagging theft-prone items, and documenting property transfers; and (4) adequately protect theft-prone property by improving security procedures.

    Agency Affected: Department of Energy

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Energy should require the operating contractors to establish and implement appropriate property management controls that will ensure that contractors improve controls in the payroll-related area to: (1) require time and attendance reports that are certified for accuracy by both employees and immediate supervisors; (2) require leave to be charged for absences that exceed a reasonable period of time, similar to requirements for Federal employees; (3) establish appropriate criteria to ensure that tuition is reimbursed only for course work directly related to an employee's job; and (4) ensure that negotiable instruments are properly safeguarded by improving controls over blank checks, check signature plates, and payroll checks.

    Agency Affected: Department of Energy

  5. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Energy should: (1) ensure that all DOE divisions and operating contractors adhere to the reporting requirements and travel policies set forth in DOE foreign travel regulations including requiring that operating contractor employees report fees, travel, and expense reimbursements received from foreign hosts; and (2) require the operations offices to oversee the implementation of the above recommendation by operating contractors.

    Agency Affected: Department of Energy

  6. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Energy should require the development, implementation, and enforcement of an adequate property management system for use by the energy technology center (ETC) which should include procedures for: (1) conducting inventories of personal property with strict adherence to established inventory intervals; mandatory reconciliation of inventory results; and detailed instructions as to how inventories should be conducted to ensure an appropriate degree of independence, adequate coverage, and effective methods; (2) updating properly control records to ensure their accuracy by promptly adding new property to listings, deleting missing property, and changing property records when item are moved or transferred; and (3) promptly reporting thefts and missing items.

    Agency Affected: Department of Energy

  7. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Energy should require the implementation of procedures by the ETC's to effectively control property held by offsite contractors, including establishing methods to verify the accuracy of contractor reports of DOE property, enforce contractor reporting requirements, and account for property when contracts are completed.

    Agency Affected: Department of Energy

  8. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Energy should require the establishment and implementation of written procedures at the ETC's to adequately control small purchases. These procedures should limit the number of individuals who have authority to approve requisitions and ensure that: (1) purchases are made only within the small purchasing system; and (2) payments for goods and services are made only after it has been verified that they have been delivered according to the terms agreed upon.

    Agency Affected: Department of Energy

  9. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Energy should ensure that the practice by DOE personnel of directing operating contractors to make procurements, which results in the circumventing of Federal Procurement Regulations, is eliminated.

    Agency Affected: Department of Energy

  10. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOE only transferred 46 of its 125 field auditors to the Inspector General's Office. GAO feels that all of the field auditors positions should have been transferred to allow for better independent audit coverage of DOE research facilities.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Energy should transfer all remaining field auditor positions to the Inspector General.

    Agency Affected: Department of Energy

 

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