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Highlights

In January 2005, the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) implemented a plan, in part, to address a backlog of pending cases. This report discusses actions related to the development of this plan, including whether required practices and procedures were followed in contracting for the services of a management consulting company and in hiring an intermittent employee as a consultant. Also, the report identifies avenues of redress available to OSC employees for filing prohibited personnel practice allegations against OSC, and other redress options that could be made available.

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Recommendations

Matter for Congressional Consideration

Matter Status Comments
Due to the unique nature of OSC and the difficulties involved when a prohibited personnel practice allegation is made against the Special Counsel or the Deputy Special Counsel, Congress may wish to consider affording OSC employees (and former employees and applicants for employment) alternative means of addressing prohibited personnel practice allegations other than going through OSC. These means could include establishing (1) a right to an external investigation through an independent entity, where the entity would forward its findings to the President, who would decide the appropriate action, as is done when OSC handles allegations of prohibited personnel practices against Senate-confirmed presidential appointees; or (2) an expansion of the personnel actions that could be the basis for an appeal directly to the MSPB.
Closed - Implemented
In late September 2008, Congress added language to the Inspector General Reform Act of 2008, H.R. 928, to establish by statute the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency and within the Council to establish an Integrity Committee. The bill also provides that an allegation of wrongdoing by the Special Counsel or Deputy Special Counsel may be referred to the Integrity Committee. H.R. 928 was signed by the President on October 14, 2008, Public Law 110-409.

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Administrative Resource Center The Director of ARC's Division of Procurement should ensure that documents prepared by program offices requesting contracting assistance--such as statements of work and sole-source justifications--are carefully reviewed for compliance with competition requirements.
Closed - Implemented
In January 2006, in response to our recommendation, the Commissioner of BPD stated ARC's concurrence with our recommendation and, based on our findings, said that they have dedicated a compliance team to ensure that competition requirements receive an enhanced degree of consideration. ARC officials added that they have become more vigilant in reviewing contract documents. In addition, the ARC Procurement Director must now approve all sole-source procurement actions.
Office of Special Counsel The Special Counsel should put in place procedures to ensure that only those officials who have taken the required training and been designated as contracting officer's representatives act in that role and that program staff do not exceed their authority in interacting with contractors.
Closed - Implemented
In commenting on our draft report, OSC agreed with our recommendation. In a June 14, 2007, letter from OSC's Deputy Special Counsel providing an update on actions the agency has taken on our recommendations, OSC stated that the agency has re-designed the contracting procedures. For example, OSC no longer uses the Bureau of Public Debt (BPD) for outsourced procurement services and has since brought the function in-house. In this regard, OSC stated that it has hired a fully trained Contract Officer, with a warrant from the head of the agency. The software platform, PRISM, previously used for entering contracts is no longer at BPD; rather, OSC uses an Oracle platform hosted by it new accounting provider, the National Business Center. According to OSC, its Contract Officer has taken courses of intermediate to advanced contracting-related training from June 2000 to June 2007. Further, OSC stated that the Contract Officer, located at headquarters, has full oversight over the agency's contracts and actively monitors them, unlike under the previous system where the contract officer with BPD was located in West Virginia while the services being performed under contract were here in Washington, DC. In addition to the Contracting Officer, OSC has three other individuals on staff who have received COTR training and, according to OSC, the Contracting Officer will sometimes appoint one of the COTRs to specific tasks related to a specific contract. According to OSC, given the reduced role of the COTRs in the agency's newly designed procurement function, there are no new policy guidance or directives related to the role of the COTRs. However, when the Contract Officer designates a COTR for a certain contract, he explicitly states in detail in a letter to the COTR the duties and responsibilities of the COTR with regard to that contract, as well as things the COTR may not do regarding the contract.
Administrative Resource Center The Director of ARC's Division of Procurement should ensure that ARC contracting staff, through regular communication with the program offices they support, ensure that only authorized program officials act as contracting officer's representatives.
Closed - Implemented
In January 2006, in response to our recommendation, the Commissioner of BPD stated ARC's concurrence with our recommendation and, based on our findings, said that they have dedicated a compliance team to ensure that competition requirements receive an enhanced degree of consideration. ARC officials added that they are ensuring that only authorized personnel are participating in the administration of contracts.

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