Contract Practices:

Free-Lance Services Provided by RFE/RL Employees

NSIAD-86-16: Published: Nov 27, 1985. Publicly Released: Nov 27, 1985.

Additional Materials:


Joan M. McCabe
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In response to a congressional request, GAO reviewed broadcast controls at Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Inc. (RFE/RL), a government-financed private organization which broadcasts to Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. Because of questions raised about possible abuses, GAO reviewed: (1) RFE/RL reasons for contracting with its employees; (2) the extent and cost of such contracting; and (3) controls in place, or possible, to prevent abuses.

GAO found that: (1) RFE/RL spent $178,651 to contract with 222 full-time employees; (2) a number of the contracts were for support services, such as typing, translation, statistical compilation, and research; (3) contracts were awarded to employees for tasks that fell within the employees' job descriptions, and employees may have done contract work during normal, salaried working hours; (4) employee free-lance contracts were awarded in areas where the pool of available outside help was good; (5) RFE/RL has no written policies or procedures that specify the conditions under which contracts with employees may be used; and (6) the Board for International Broadcasting's budget justifications to Congress do not show that RFE/RL contracts with its employees. RFE/RL officials stated that they contract with employees because: (1) outside contributors in the non-Russian language broadcasts to the Soviet Union are difficult to find; (2) employees must receive additional compensation for tasks outside their position descriptions; and (3) employees are used to maintain high quality broadcasts. GAO believes that RFE/RL should have the flexibility to contract with employees for services it needs but cannot obtain from other sources; however, RFE/RL has not applied adequate controls to ensure that employee free-lance contracts are: (1) used only when necessary; (2) properly reviewed and authorized to avoid abuses; and (3) performed outside normal duty hours.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: RFE/RL initiated corrective action through directives and administrative controls.

    Recommendation: The Chairman of the Board for International Broadcasting should direct the President, RFE/RL, to develop regulations that govern the awarding of free-lance contracts to employees. These regulations should require that RFE/RL: (1) department heads not contract with employees unless needs cannot be reasonably met through other means; (2) department heads initiating employee free-lance contracts certify that outside contributors and existing staff resources are unavailable; (3) senior vice president or equivalent position approve all employee free-lance contracts; and (4) institute controls to help ensure that employees perform contract work outside of normal, salaried duty hours.

    Agency Affected: Board for International Broadcasting

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: At the Board's direction, RFE/RL has discontinued the practice of awarding free-lance contracts to its employees.

    Recommendation: The Chairman of the Board for International Broadcasting should identify in its budget submission to Congress that some of the funds may be used for RFE/RL employee free-lance contracts.

    Agency Affected: Board for International Broadcasting


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