Friday, February 21, 2014

Conditions Influencing Contractor Labor Charging Practices - Part 4

Today we present the fourth of six parts in our series on what contract auditors consider to be high risk conditions when reviewing labor costs. Although these conditions are not conclusive in and of themselves, the mere existence of such conditions should lead the auditor to devise specific audit tests to determine the propriety of related labor charges. Today we focus on CD contracts, contract provisions in general and accounting by funding.

As a general rule, auditor initiative, imagination, and yes, even intuition are important ingredients during assessments of possible labor accounting improprieties.

Contract Definition (CD) Contracts 

Contract Definition (CD) Contracts are generally fixed-price contracts for a short duration. They are usually awarded to several contractors who will compete for a major follow-on prime contract. The procurement activity will use the results delivered under the CD contracts to help define exactly what it wants in the prime contract and then issue an informative RFP. Since the contractor's performance on the CD contract will have a direct bearing on its chance of winning the prime, there may be a tendency to spend more than the established contract value. Therefore CD contracts are highly susceptible to labor mis­charging and the auditor should evaluate to make sure all allocable effort is being charged.

Contract Provisions 

Any contract or contract modification may contain certain provisions which increase the incentive for labor mischarging. A common example of such a provision is one which puts ceilings on certain cost elements or rates. Similarly, Time-and-Materials/Engineering and Technical Services contracts may include task order funding ceilings which are enforceable when contract language so provides. These ceilings prohibit the contractor from recovering any costs incurred above these preestablished limits. The existence of costs incurred in excess of ceiling limitations should alert the auditor to possible improper cost transfers. Another example of a contract provision which increases the risk of labor mischarging is a "Cost Sharing Clause." Such clauses may require the contractor to deliver goods and/or services at no costs to the Government.

Labor Accounting by Funding 

Labor accounting by funding is the controlled management and charging of labor costs to cost objectives on the basis of available funding rather than where the labor efforts are actually performed. Time-and-Materials/Engineering and Technical Services contracts possess a risk of labor accounting by funding. The availability of contract funds often controls where labor costs are charged. To the extent that this practice is
employed, the procedures utilized in risk and vulnerability analysis will have to be adjusted because extensive labor accounting by funding often results in no "red flag" conditions since all cost objectives will show labor costs at or below funded levels. The auditor must be alert to this type of situation and consider factors other than cost in determining the existence or extent of this practice. For example, a review of recent deliveries made on Government contracts could reveal that no labor costs were charged to a contract during the period when deliveries occurred.

As a general rule, auditor initiative and imagination are important ingredients during assessments of possible labor accounting improprieties.

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