Agency use of risky cost-based contracts has dropped over the last six-years, but the number of contracts coded as “combination contracts” is on the rise, the Government Accountability Office found in a report released today.
Between 2003 and 2008, the value of cost-reimbursement contracts, which pay vendors for their actual costs to perform the work, grew from $120 billion to $136 billion. But as a percentage of overall dollars spent through the procurement process, use declined. In 2003, the $120 billion represented 34 percent of the $298 billion spent. In 2008, the $136 billion was just 26 percent of the $528 billion spent, GAO found.
The report comes in the same week as the Office of Management and Budget told how agencies they should reduce the use of these contracts by another 10 percent by Oct. 1, 2010.
“However, this overall downward trend is misleading,” GAO said in the report. “A significant increase has been reported for obligations using the ‘combination’ contract type, a category that based on GAO’s analysis of 2008 data, includes many contracts with cost-reimbursement obligations that are not recorded as such.”
In fiscal 2004, agencies spent less than 1 percent — or $1.3 billion — of government obligations on “combination” contracts. In 2008, use swelled to 8 percent or $39 billion of total contract spending. Defense was the largest user of the contracts in 2008, spending $34 billion of the $39 billion in “combination” contracts, GAO found. In addition, billions in contracts had no contract type designated for fiscal 2008, the report said.
Regardless of how much agencies spent through cost-reimbursement methods, as opposed to less risky fixed-price contracts, agencies were not monitoring the contracts carefully, GAO said.
Of 92 cost-based contacts GAO reviewed for the report, only half of the contractors had accounting systems government auditors found were accurate in tracking costs, GAO found. Twenty had no evidence that systems were adequate and 20 more had outdated determinations of accuracy, GAO said. Outdated accuracy determinations and inadequate systems put government at risk for making improper payments, the report said.