US report criticises use of consultants

9 April 2008
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10 April 2008

Buyers at the US Department of Defence (DoD) are overusing the services of outside contract experts, according to a report from public sector auditor the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

The report found external specialists made up 42 per cent of the department's team at the Contracting Centre of Excellence (CCE), which advises defence organisations such as the army on purchasing and contracts. It added the distinction between external staff and permanently employed contract officers was "blurry".

The GAO revealed that experts from external firms such as The Ravens Group and CACI International were assigned to help with deals their own company was bidding on. No wrongdoing is alleged, but the report argued this approach risked a conflict of interest.

Outside contract experts also earned up to 27 per cent more than staff. Taking benefits into account, they received an hourly rate of $74.99, compared with permanent employee's $59.21. Senator Joe Lieberman, government affairs committee chairman, said the public sector is too reliant on outside contractors and its approach needs an overhaul.

"The danger of conflicts of interest is particularly acute when the government hires contractors to assist with federal contracting. We must be assured contract dollars are awarded so taxpayers get best value for money and not to increase the fortunes of a contractor or its employees." The DoD did not respond to SM's request for comment on the reports findings.

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