DCAA Cutting Corners?
Auditors blame metrics
All of the auditors interviewed by Federal Times blamed strict performance metrics put in place by former DCAA Director William Reed as the cause of the agency’s troubles. Stephenson replaced Reed in February.
The metrics require all audits to be finished within 30 days without going over budget. For many cases, this is unrealistic, but failing to meet those measures could mean a negative rating for an auditor, which could put his or her opportunities for future advancement at risk, the auditors said.
To meet those measures, auditors have gamed the system, working overtime and at home without charging for the work, making it appear the audit met time and budget constraints when it did not, said one auditor with 20 years’ experience.
“DCAA’s emphasis on metrics generates an audit environment which gives rise to audit scope limitations, cutting corners and a perceived level of distrust by management since the audit staff is expected to meet its metrics,” another auditor said, adding that she cut back on site visits to contractors to save money, collecting information by e-mail or phone.
“I know this is wrong, [but] this is what I’ve resorted to in order to conform with our agency’s metrics,” the auditor said. Site visits provide valuable information, giving auditors not just access to documents but also to the people doing the work, she said.
At DCAA, “climbing the ladder of success does not depend on what you know, but who you know and how good you take directives without questioning,” an auditor said.
In addition, the staff at DCAA is half of what it was in the 1990s, but the workload has nearly doubled in the last seven years, said Nick Schwellenbach, POGO’s national security investigator. DCAA has nearly 3,500 employees handling nearly $400 billion in Defense and government business annually, according to the agency.
“When you couple performance metrics with the fact they’ve been cut to the bone, this is what you get,” Schwellenbach said.