GAO wants board of contract appeals

Comptroller General Walker's testimony

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The Government Accountability Office has asked Congress to pass legislation creating a GAO board of contract appeals to manage a growing workload of contract disputes.

Comptroller General David Walker told the Senate Appropriations Committee’s Subcommittee on the Legislative Branch Friday that the proposed body would help GAO work through these cases at a more efficient and predictable pace.

GAO recently agreed to handle claims arising from Government Printing Office contracts, which is an addition to ruling on cases involving other legislative branch agencies, including the Library of Congress and the Congressional Budget Office. GAO has done work on an ad hoc basis over the years, specifically for claims related to Architect of the Capitol’s contract awards.

The requested legislation would allow GAO to recoup its costs for its adjudication services, Walker said.

GAO’s case workload for bid protests has jumped more than 10 percent from fiscal 2002 to 2006. The first quarter of fiscal 2007 showed a continued upward trend, he said.

GAO plans to request legislative provisions allowing the comptroller general to administer oaths for those employees doing GAO-related work and making employee salaries in line with market salaries for professional positions, Walker said.

The office also plans to request changes to how it keeps Congress up to date on difficulties interviewing agency personnel and getting agencies’ views on issues under investigation. When agencies stall or refuse to work with GAO, the comptroller general wants to be able to tell Congress as soon as possible and later include the instance in the annual report to Congress, Walker said.

For its spending request, GAO has asked for $530 million, an 8.5 percent increase over its fiscal 2007 funding level.

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