Eliminating Contractor Inspections of Federal Water Projects Could Save Millions

CED-81-146: Published: Sep 29, 1981. Publicly Released: Sep 29, 1981.

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GAO reviewed three approaches to inspecting the construction of dams, powerhouses, and other Federal water projects: (1) contractor self-inspection with agency monitoring, used by the Corps of Engineers; (2) agency inspection, used by the Bureau of Reclamation; and (3) third-party inspection, occasionally used by both agencies. The objective of the review was to determine the most economical way of accomplishing inspection objectives for water projects.

GAO favors agency inspections over contractor inspections because they are considered to be more objective in ensuring contractor compliance with the quality controls established in agency designs and specifications. In addition, inspectors who are independent of construction contractors appear less production oriented and more concerned about project quality than contractor personnel. Third-party organizations can provide inspections that are independent of the construction contractor, but experience indicates that these inspections are too costly and administratively burdensome to be viable alternatives to agency inspections, except in limited circumstances. Past experience and several studies have demonstrated the ineffectiveness of contractor inspection requirements. Rather than improving construction quality while reducing Government inspections, the requirement has resulted in a duplication of inspection efforts and facilities, unnecessary paperwork, and increased administrative costs.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status:

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

    Recommendation: To help reduce costs and provide the quality control essential for activities involved in constructing dams, powerhouses, and other water projects, the Secretary of Defense should exempt Corps of Engineers' water project construction activities from the requirement for contractor inspections.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense


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