GSA watchdog warns on management controls

An edgy back and forth between the inspector general at the General Services Administration and the agency's administrator's office reveals tensions about management challenges.

GSA Headquarters (Photo by Rena Schild/Shutterstock)
 

An edgy back and forth between the inspector general at the General Services Administration and the agency's administrator's office reveals tensions about management challenges.

In a Nov. 30 report, the GSA Inspector General's Office stated the agency has faced repeated problems in the last couple of years setting up and strengthening internal controls for its programs. GSA OIG Carol Fortine Ochoa said during the one-year period ended June 30, 2018, her office publicly released 18 audit reports and memoranda. Of those 18, 13 noted deficiencies in internal control, she said.

The study noted weaknesses in GSA's Federal Acquisition Service moves to become a "premier" provider of acquisition services for the federal government. According to the report, even though FAS invested over $25 million and up to 15 full-time employees between fiscal 2016 and 2017 to set up and manage the Acquisition Gateway, the IG said federal agencies aren't required to use it, making it difficult to measure its ability to save federal money.

The report led to a testy exchange between Ochoa and GSA Administrator Emily Murphy. In letters to Ochoa, the agency said it "strongly disagrees" with the IG's conclusion it has internal control problems.

In her response, Ochoa pressed the issue. "Unless GSA recognizes that internal control is not one event, but a series of actions that occur throughout an entity's operation and thereby proactively considers establishing a comprehensive system of internal control, these issues will likely continue to exist," she said.

Ochoa also parried GSA's assertion that no significant challenges had been communicated through the meetings of Management Control and Oversight Council jointly run by OIG/GSA senior leadership or in the monthly meetings between the IG, the GSA administrator and deputy administrator.

"First, my office issues every final report directly to you," Ochoa wrote in her letter to Murphy. "It is our expectation that you and your senior leadership team will review these reports to gain an understanding of the deficiencies we identify across GSA."

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