Improvements Needed in Managing Federal Coal Mapping Contracts

EMD-81-38: Published: May 7, 1981. Publicly Released: May 7, 1981.

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Maps, which were intended to provide a basic source of coal resource data for the Department of Interior's land use planning system, were prepared under contracts awarded and managed by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). Sixteen cost-plus-fixed-fee contracts were awarded for the purpose of mapping coal deposits in seven western States. A review was made of shortcomings in contract management practices which were largely responsible for the poor quality of the maps and, if not corrected, could also jeopardize other programs that rely on contracting.

The shortcomings included a questionable basis for awarding and amending the contracts, vague contract provisions, lack of other guidance, and inadequate cost estimating and contract monitoring. One of the contracts was awarded on a sole-source basis without adequate justification. Two other contracts were modified without seeking outside competition. Ten of the contractors were orally requested to make major changes in the scope of the contracts. These changes were the basis for later contract modifications resulting in significant cost increases. Contract monitors and program officials were not trained adequately in contract administration, and there were no written guidelines for them to follow. The statement of work did not adequately describe what data contractors were to use in preparing the maps, how data were to be analyzed and interpreted, or what procedures would be followed in reviewing the maps. Consequently, standards varied, delays occurred, and map quality suffered. A program manual was not published until more than 2 years after the initial contract was issued and after work on all the contracts was nearly completed. Cost overruns were due to costs not properly estimated, delays caused by agency planning, and frequent changes in the basic format of the maps.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Interior should require the Director of USGS to assure that sufficient efforts are made to comply with Federal Procurement Regulations in securing competition on all contracts as well as major changes to contracts to the maximum practicable extent.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Interior

  2. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Interior should require the Director of USGS to use fixed-price contracts rather than cost-plus-fixed-fee contracts whenever possible.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Interior

  3. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Interior should require the Director of USGS to devise specific contract provisions and other guidance to assure mutual understanding on contract requirements and to minimize reliance on oral guidance when change orders are necessary.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Interior

  4. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Interior should require the Director of USGS to require personnel to organize, assemble, and manage available resource data before contracting for the same or related data in order to better gauge types of data and analyses actually needed.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Interior

  5. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Interior should require the Director of USGS to train contracting personnel, including designated contract monitors, in contract administration prior to their appointment.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Interior

  6. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Interior should require the Director of USGS to assure that contracts are properly monitored to preclude cost overruns and to assure effective contractor performance.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Interior

 

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