Department of Justice:

Status of Implementing Private Attorney Debt Collection Pilot Program

GGD-89-90: Published: Aug 15, 1989. Publicly Released: Aug 15, 1989.

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Pursuant to a legislative requirement, GAO evaluated the Department of Justice's pilot program for contracting with private attorneys for debt collection to determine: (1) Justice's compliance with federal competition requirements; (2) whether Justice obtained reasonable prices; (3) the extent to which Justice encouraged minority competition; and (4) program results.

GAO found that Justice: (1) generally followed federal competition requirements for identifying potential contractors in its first set of 5 pilot districts, with over 1,100 law firms expressing interest in obtaining contracts and 83 submitting proposals; (2) awarded 3 of its first 18 contracts to minority firms and was considering more awards to minority firms under its second set of 5 pilot districts; (3) generally followed federal contractor selection requirements, although it erroneously eliminated two potentially qualified firms from competition and provided only limited guidance for technical proposal evaluation; (4) did not adequately document its contracting process; (5) obtained reasonable prices for the legal services; (6) could not assess the cost-effectiveness of its contracting efforts, since it collected data on costs of private attorney debt collection efforts, but did not collect comparable cost information for participating U.S. attorney's offices; and (7) misreported cost information comparing private and U.S. attorneys' collection efforts.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The agency has directed the head of procurement services to reemphasize procurement laws and regulations. The head of procurement services has asked the staff to fully evaluate proposals and document the process.

    Recommendation: To ensure that the Department of Justice complies with the Federal Acquisition Regulation, the Attorney General should direct the head of the procurement services staff to fully: (1) evaluate all proposals before eliminating them from competition; and (2) document the contracting process.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Private attorney debt collection costs are now compared to Department of Education collection costs rather than separately estimating Department of Justice costs.

    Recommendation: The Attorney General should direct the U.S. attorney's offices participating in the pilot program to modify their reporting system to separately estimate the number of personnel that work on the same types of debt cases that the private attorneys will be handling.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Private attorney debt collection costs are now compared to Department of Education collection costs rather than separately estimating Department of Justice costs.

    Recommendation: The Attorney General should direct the Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys to use the refined information to estimate the U.S. attorney's offices indirect debt collection costs.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The agency has changed the reporting system to generate data that can be used to prepare reports on comparable collection results.

    Recommendation: The Attorney General should direct the program manager to revise program results reports to show results on cases that are comparable.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice

 

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