Davis-Bacon Act:

Process Changes Could Address Vulnerability to Use of Inaccurate Data in Setting Prevailing Wage Rates

T-HEHS-96-166: Published: Jun 20, 1996. Publicly Released: Jun 20, 1996.

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GAO discussed the vulnerabilities in the Department of Labor's prevailing wage determination process under the Davis-Bacon Act. GAO noted that: (1) Labor sets prevailing wage rates for numerous job classifications in about 3,000 geographic areas; (2) Labor's wage determination process depends on employers' and third parties' voluntary participation in a survey that reports wage and fringe benefits paid for similar jobs on comparable construction projects in a given area; (3) due to limited resources, Labor concentrates on those geographical areas most in need of wage rate revisions; (4) Labor wage determinations can be appealed by any interested party; (5) process weaknesses include limited data verification, limited computer capabilities to detect erroneous data, and the lack of awareness of the appeals process; (6) erroneous data could result in setting the wage rate too low so that construction workers are underpaid or setting the wage rate too high so that the government incurs excessive construction costs; (7) Labor initiatives to improve its rate-setting process include having employers verify certain third-party data, informing survey respondents of the serious consequences of willfully falsifying wage data, and proposing a long-term strategy to review the entire wage determination process; and (8) Labor should immediately improve its verification of employer wage data and make the appeals process more effective.

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