Accountability Update: Is Anybody Listening?

Our recent blog post about accountability had some good discussions on the GS-1102 LinkedIn group (closed group) about who actually is responsible for accountability. Should it rest squarely on government? What responsibility does the contractor have when the government is asleep at the switch?

A recent issue seems to have blurred that line, prompting the people responsible for being taxpayer watchdogs to testify incredulously about the lack of concern and the seemingly “sweeping under the rug” of the topic of accountability all together.

John Sopko, the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction, recently took the Army Corps of Engineers to task for ineffective management and oversight of work by DynCorp, which is owned by affiliates of New York-based Cerberus Capital Management LP, from responsibility while long-standing deficiencies remained for work on a garrison at Camp Pamir in Kunduz province.

“The Corps’ own internal review says they didn’t make DynCorp pay to fix their shoddy construction, they didn’t collect the liquidated damages that DynCorp owed them, and they violated their own settlement policies,” he said.

“But they still think the settlement was ’proper and reasonable.’” Sopko said. “That wasn’t a settlement, it was a mugging.”

An isolated incident, and a difficult one no doubt, but it is nonetheless disconcerting when an agency seemingly ignores such damming evidence, but decides it is best to sweep it under the rug and move on.

Given the billions that have already evaporated into the sands of Iraq, yet more evidence of how the lack of accountability is hindering progress coming out of Afghanistan is not surprising.

Having performance conversations early and often is the critical component of performance measurement, and then executing lessons learned for continuous improvement. Most, if not all contracts require some rudimentary form of performance measure (i.e. weekly status reports, monthly reports, performance meetings, etc.).

Other than killing trees, what is the point of doing all this if we are not going to mutually benefit and ensure proper outcomes and meeting contractual requirements?

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Sonja Newcombe

I can remember when, receiving a government contract was an honor. The standard and quality of the workmanship was kept at the highest standard, now main stream contractors aren’t expected to perform highest quality workmanship. We maintain our ships and planes with the cheaper material products and services. Somehow the standards in our products decrease along with the workmanship. My grandfather ran a huge farm with a second grade education, he would tell shop keepers, that equipment or product was second rate. “And you know better than to sell second rate service or products to Me.” he was a tall man that knew quality from junk; it shouldn’t take a brain scientist to determine the quality of a contractor workmanship. My maternal grandfather was an upright man, with integrity and ethics. He expects nothing less, than the best. What happen to the contractor specialist and Acquisition specialist who we relied on for accountability? Maybe, it was assumed no one cares someone always cares when your handling tax payers funds. No one should have to tell you, we need the best quality workmanship at the best price. Let’s bring Accountability back in AQM. We should have pride in our work and workmanship.

Jaime Gracia

Amen Sonja! “Good enough for government work” used to the the gold standard for quality and workmanship, but those ways went the way of the dodo. This constant pursuit for the lowest price has driven quality into the sewer, further exacerbated with the lack of accountability for delivering value.

If a price reasonableness analysis was done (which it rarely is, but let’s assume it was done), and the lowest cost offeror was selected, then why are we not managing the results? Why is unacceptable quality acceptable?