Monday, November 20, 2017

DCAA Must Report to Congress on the Education, Qualifications, and Certifications of its Staff

Of all the things that DCAA (Defense Contract Audit Agency) can be criticized for, the educational qualifications of its staff is not one. Virtually all auditors have Bachelor's Degrees and a 40 percent of them have advanced degrees. On top of that, a quarter of them (more than 25 percent) are CPAs (Certified Public Accountants). The Agency actively encourages its auditors to pursue advance degrees and CPA status. The Agency has a robust training program as well. In their first year, auditors can expect four or more weeks of intensive training and because the Agency is engaged in Yellow Book audits (i.e. GAGAS or Generally Accepted Government Auditing Standards), auditors are expected (and required) to meet minimum CPE (Continuing Professional Education) requirements at Government expense. Consider the following table that comes from DCAA's annual report to Congress.

With this in mind, one of the outcomes of 2018 NDAA Conference Committee seems somewhat odd. The conferees directed the DCAA Director, in consultation with the Under Secretary of Defense (Comptroller) to brief the Congressional defense committees in six months with the following agenda items:

  1. The current education, certifications, and qualifications of the Defense Contract Audit Agency workforce, by supervisory and non-supervisory levels and type of position.
  2. Shortfalls (if any) in education, qualification, or training in the DCAA workforce, by supervisory and non-supervisory levels and type of position and the reason for those shortfalls.
  3. The link (if any) between DCAA workforce skill and experience gaps and the Agency's backlog of audits.
  4. The link (if any) between the effectiveness of DCAA regional directors and their education, certifications, and qualifications
  5. The number of DCAA auditors who have relevant private sector experience, including from industry exchanges while at DCAA and from prior employment experiences, and the perspective of DCAA on the benefits of those experiences
  6. Ongoing efforts and future plans by DCAA to improve the professionalization of its audit workforce, including changes in hiring, training, required certifications or qualifications, compensation structure, and increase opportunities for industry exchanges or rotations.

DCAA does not need six months to write this report. It could do so right now. While auditor educational achievements and training programs are exemplary, turnover tends to be high - possibly because of better compensation opportunities - which creates an experience gap. Also, too much meddling by outside agencies such as the Inspector General and GAO has resulted in a degree of paralysis because of fear of criticism which in turn, has caused the Agency to jettison common sense risk assessments.

DCAA still predominately relies on homegrown staff - hiring them at entry level and progressing them through the organization. There are very few that come into the Agency with a significant level of auditing experience. Those that do often have other motives for joining. We know of two who joined because they had serious health issues and the Government's health insurance offered better benefits than that of their previous employers. Another sold his private CPA practice and needed a place to hang out for a couple of years until his covenant not to complete expired. A couple had bounced around numerous jobs and it became quickly apparent why they were not valued members of previous employers' staffs.

Its too bad there wasn't some kind of rewind button. We could go back to 2005 when DCAA was just fine and was considered a valued member of the procurement team.

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