The Department of Energy's Use of Support Service Contractors To Perform Basic Management Functions

EMD-81-144: Published: Sep 14, 1981. Publicly Released: Oct 14, 1981.

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GAO reviewed the Department of Energy's (DOE) use of contractors to perform work involving basic governmental management functions. Previous GAO reports have indicated that some DOE contracts were written so that contractors could be performing these types of functions; however, GAO could not determine if contractors were, in fact, performing basic management functions. The problem of contractors performing basic management functions for Federal agencies is not new. GAO has published several reports concerning this issue during the past 20 years, particularly in the area of consultant contracts. In an effort to respond to this problem, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is requiring additional management controls to assure that Government contractors do not perform basic management functions.

In its review, GAO was able to identify several conditions which gave DOE contractors sufficient latitude to perform basic management functions. While OMB guidance to Federal agencies prohibits contractors from performing governmental management functions, contractors are permitted to assist the agency in performing such functions. No criteria exist to determine what constitutes performance versus assistance by contractors. DOE officials have stated that there are not enough people available within the agency to perform all the required work. While contractors are hired to assist DOE in performing program functions, they may actually perform the work as extensions of the agency staff, thus giving the appearance of circumventing personnel ceilings. DOE contract statements of work are often written to allow for considerable flexibility in the actual work performed. This gives contractors an opportunity to perform basic management functions.

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