Watchdog Finds Uneven Assessment of Army Contractors

The U.S. Army is not consistently following the rules for evaluating contractor performance, according to a Department of Defense Inspector General (IG) report released on Monday.

Performance assessment reports, or PARs, are the federal government’s method for measuring contractor performance. Contracts may have several PARs prepared during their period of performance. PARs are prepared in a database called the Contractor Performance Assessment Reporting System (CPARS) and are shared government-wide through the Past Performance Information Retrieval System (PPIRS) database.

“It is imperative for PARs to include detailed, quality-written information,” according to the IG. “Each PAR should effectively communicate contractor strengths and weaknesses to source selection officials.”

The IG reviewed 56 PARs prepared by five Army components on contracts worth a total of $1.5 billion. The IG found 52 of the 56 PARs were incomplete or did not include sufficient written justifications for the performance ratings given. For example, officials rated some contractors as “exceptional” or “very good,” but the IG determined that the written narratives justified a lower “satisfactory” rating.

Additionally, 21 of the 56 PARs were not prepared within the required timeframe of 120 days, and the average delay among all five components was 59 days. The average delay at the Army Corps of Engineers’ Engineering Support Center in Huntsville, Alabama was an astonishing 146 days.

The IG found several internal control weaknesses at the five components, including: (1) a lack of procedures addressing contract registration and PAR compliance with federal contracting regulations; (2) insufficient training on how to use CPARS; and (3) a lack of understanding of PAR ratings and evaluation factors by contracting officials.

What this means is $1.5 billion of taxpayer money was at heightened risk of fraud or waste because the Army did not have information necessary to make informed contract award decisions. There is, however, a glimmer of hope. Buried in the report’s appendix is a finding that the five Army components’ compliance has improved since fiscal year 2010. They are preparing more PARs and in a more timely manner than six years ago.

When the IG reviewed the past performance reporting system in 2008, it similarly found CPARS deficient and warned that Department of Defense contracting officials “do not have all past performance information needed to make informed decisions related to market research, contract awards, and other acquisition matters.” The new report notes DoD failed to implement a CPARS training requirement as the IG recommended in 2008. Not surprisingly, CPARS training was one of several recommendations put forth in the most recent audit.

Finally, we must acknowledge that the government has done an admirable job in creating digital resources to monitor federal contractors, such as CPARS, PPIRS, and the Federal Awardee Performance and Integrity Information System (FAPIIS), a contractor and grantee responsibility database based on POGO’s Federal Contractor Misconduct Database. However, the government has fallen short in one respect: sharing contractor past performance reviews with the public. Over the years, POGO has fought to make this data publicly available, and we will continue to do so.