Weatherization Procurement Proposals Need To Be Reevaluated

EMD-79-81: Published: Jun 26, 1979. Publicly Released: Jun 26, 1979.

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A review of the organization and management of the Office of Conservation and Solar Applications, Department of Energy (DOE), was begun by GAO in January 1979, with special focus on the Office of Weatherization Assistance (OWA) within the Office of State and Local Assistance. In November 1978, Syracuse Research Corporation submitted an unsolicited proposal to OWA for the development of a weatherization program manual for State-level administrators, a project which OWA was considering at the time as a high-priority item. Lacking sufficient in-house staff to accomplish the task unaided, OWA accepted the proposal and awarded a contract. Later in 1978, OWA and the Community Services Administration (CSA) formed an interagency agreement to develop and pilot test a weatherization newsletter as a medium for exchanging information about the program. OWA funded the project for CSA to administer, and a contract was awarded to Syracuse Research to conduct the study, including developing a mailing list, publishing and distributing three issues, soliciting comments on the newsletter from recipients, and reporting the results, with recommendations, to OWA and CSA. In January 1979, Syracuse Research submitted an unsolicited proposal to OWA to continue the program through 18 additional issues with special supplements on individual topics and possibly a Spanish-language edition.

OWA prepared a procurement package to justify the weatherization manual project as a sole source procurement, but the GAO review found the action to be insufficiently pressing to rule out competitive bidding. No information was given on the associated costs or the schedule requirements. Syracuse Research's planned use of consultants in the preparation of its manual was also questionable. Over 18 percent of the total estimated project cost was allotted to consultants' fees, about 39 percent of the project's labor costs. It did not seem appropriate to justify a sole source contract on the basis of a firm's capabilities if the firm needed extensive consultant assistance to fulfill the terms of the contract. In the case of the newsletter, also, the need for a sole source procurement was doubtful because of the nontechnical nature of the information in the pilot issues. Also, OWA acted prematurely in approving an extension of the program without adequately evaluating the pilot issues. In any case, under OWA plans Syracuse Research would have primary responsibility for both the weatherization manual and the newsletter, an inappropriate role for a contractor and an indication that OWA may be understaffed. Contractor support activities should not supplant the agency's normal functions, and contracts, when used, should be directed toward fostering competition. In its contracting practices, OWA may have been too reliant on contractor support for the accomplishment of its mission.

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