- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 26, 2014

A Veteran Affairs office that oversees hundreds of millions of dollars in projects in Washington, Maryland and Virginia has failed to document why the agency is making no-bid purchases — a form of procurement the Obama administration has railed against publicly.

The finding, reported in an internal audit last spring, came after a review of dozens of contract files at the acquisition arm for the Veterans Health Administration’s Capitol Health Care Network, which buys on behalf of clinics and medical centers in the Washington area as well as in parts of West Virginia and Pennsylvania.

The review found officials regularly omitted justifications for sole-source contract awards, which are required to show why the agency decided to hire one vendor instead of opening up competition to include bidding from multiple contractors.

Competitive bidding generally provides the government a better price, and the Obama White House in 2009 issued a memo urging agencies to be wary about sole-source contracts, citing “wasted taxpayer resources, poor contractor performance and inadequate accountability for results.”

But in the VA review, auditors randomly reviewed dozens of contract files and found that 14 contracts were identified as sole- source. But only one contract file had any justifying documents attached to explain why there was not a competitive bidding.

The acquisition review also uncovered other problems, including missing paperwork on “price reasonableness;” a lack of required signatures; and questions about whether contracting officials tried to look for other vendors before approving a no-bid deal.

The findings raise questions about the same office that was the subject of a report earlier this month by The Washington Times. Citing documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request, The Times found some VA projects were delayed so long the contracts expired before any work was even done. And contractors then pressed the VA to pay out on delay claims.

VA officials, who declined to comment on those findings, were not immediately available for comment on Wednesday.

But the internal audit mirrors the findings of an earlier consulting report, which found an undated, unsigned list of expired purchase orders at the local VA contracting office totaling $38.8 million with a handwritten note at the bottom of the page.

“All contracts were not monitored and work was not started and contracts have expired and need to be extended,” the note read.

The VA’s construction contracting woes have been a frequent target for Congress. In September, House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller, Florida Republican, said the agency has a “horrible track record” in managing major construction projects.



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