Auditors: FEMA acquisition files are a mess
- By Alice Lipowicz
- Mar 16, 2009
Contracting documents are in disarray at the Federal Emergency
Management Agency’s headquarters office, with the agency unable to find
two-thirds of the files requested during a recent audit.
Contracting officers at FEMA’s Washington office could not locate 16 of
the 24 files the accounting firm Urbach Kahn and Werlin requested,
according to the audit released March 13 by the Homeland Security
Department’s inspector general.
And the files FEMA did find were not in good shape, the auditors said.
“The eight contract files were not consistent in content or structure,”
the auditors wrote. “Contracting officers included an acquisition file
checklist in only two files. Documentation was missing from most of the
headquarters contract files.”
FEMA’s regional and field offices performed better, with only 16 out of
96 files missing, the report states. Overall, 32 of the 120 contracting
files requested were not accounted for.
The problems stem from lax internal controls, concluded the auditors,
who were commissioned to evaluate the agency’s progress in improving
internal controls over disaster contracting since the Gulf Coast
hurricanes in 2005.
FEMA’s Office of Acquisition Management “does not routinely monitor
contracting officers’ compliance with contract file policies and
procedures, organization and maintenance regulations, and contract
closeout requirements,” the report states. Furthermore, auditors wrote
that supervisors did not hold contracting officers accountable for
maintaining complete, organized files, and the Office of Acquisition
Management did not monitor file contents to ensure that they were
complete and organized.
Missing files are only one problem with FEMA’s acquisition system, the
auditors concluded. In fiscal 2007, the agency could not provide
reasonable assurance of the effectiveness of its internal controls, and
it has not yet taken a number of key corrective actions or established
formal processes to provide oversight of improvements to internal
FEMA officials said they are preparing a plan for taking corrective action in accordance with the auditors’ recommendations.
Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.