Friday, March 9, 2012

DCAA Finally Acknowledges that Timliness is Important

For the past few years, the Defense Contract Audit Agency (DCAA) has been living by the old Paul Mason creed - "we will sell no wine before its time". In its quest to produce "perfect" audits, it abandoned its historical roots where providing timely audits was paramount. Much has been written here and elsewhere concerning general contracting officer dissatisfaction with audit timeliness. How useful is a pricing audit that is published after the contract has been awarded? Even after abdicating most of its forward pricing activities (fixed priced contracts under $10 million and cost-type contracts under $100 million) the Agency still had problems in consistently meeting contracting officers' requested due dates.

In an effort to reverse this trend and restore some modicum of respectability to its image, the Agency recently issued guidance to its audit staff requiring them to coordinate mutually agreed-to due dates with contracting officers. According to the guidance,

This acknowledges that forward pricing audits play a critical role in the procurement process and failing to provide, as promised, could compromise the negotiation schedule or result in our valuable audit effort not being used to assist in the negotiation of a fair and reasonable price. The performance measure will help DCAA to continually improve our services and processes.

(Note the self-promotion in that quote: "...result in our valuable audit effort not being used...").

The guidance goes on to discuss adequate planning, managing workflow, effective risk assessments, and other tools available to the audit team that will assist in meeting the required due dates. It also states that the Agency will begin tracking whether due dates have been met. That brings to mind another adage "What gets measured gets done, what gets measured and fed back gets done well, what gets rewarded gets repeated".

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