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Project on Government Oversight

Do Private Contractors Serve The Public Interest?

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October 13, 2009

POGO Survey to Provide a More Complete Outsourcing Picture

Private contractors can help government achieve public purposes, but ensuring that the public interest is protected requires clear standards, adequate information and oversight.  Today, the Project On Government Oversight (POGO) launched a web-based survey designed to examine the federal government’s policies and practices in using private sector contractors to perform services. POGO will solicit responses from federal government and contractor employees to help determine the extent to which the government’s service contracts conform to regulatory standards and are achieving the goals for using private contractors instead of government employees.

The reasons most commonly invoked by the government for outsourcing services include acquiring hard-to-find skills, saving money, and augmenting the federal workforce on a temporary or emergency basis. However, information available from the government about service contracts and the contractor workforce make it difficult to determine whether those goals are being achieved. 

According to Danielle Brian, POGO’s executive director, “contracting has its place, but good management demands that it be used only when it is cost effective and achieves public goals.  Each year, the federal government spends hundreds of billions of dollars on service contracts. Unfortunately, it is unable to ensure that work performed by contractors is as good as work performed by government employees; is in fact cost effective; and protects against fraud, waste, abuse, and unethical conduct.  Furthermore, it is unclear whether adequate controls are in place to ensure that contractors are not performing work that is ‘inherently governmental.’  POGO hopes this survey will provide a more comprehensive picture of the government’s outsourcing efforts.”

POGO’s survey is organized into several sections.  Respondents will be prompted to answer only the section that pertains to their particular job skills and/or work experience. Persons with experience on federal service contracts are invited to respond to POGO’s survey, which is posted on the Web at www.pogo.org.  We will publish the results of the survey next year.  

Founded in 1981, the Project On Government Oversight (POGO) is a nonpartisan independent watchdog that champions good government reforms. POGO’s investigations into corruption, misconduct, and conflicts of interest achieve a more effective, accountable, open, and ethical federal government.

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