Contractors Sometimes Stretch Their Deals
Iraq Work Done Beyond Scope of Agreements
By Ellen McCarthy
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, May 31, 2004; Page E01
In April 2003, the Defense Department hired Military Professional Resources Inc., an Alexandria government contractor, to supply Arabic translators in Iraq. The two parties agreed on a $1.9 million price and the deal was done.
The translators were hired under a federal contract category designed for the employment of education and training analysts, not linguists, according to a report by the Defense Department's inspector general. The military contracting officer who approved the deal told investigators he did not check the General Services Administration schedule to make sure that translation services were within the scope of MPRI's contract with the government. "Noncompliance of a GSA schedule is an issue between the GSA and the contractor," the report says.
MPRI, a subsidiary of L-3 Communications Corp., was never disciplined by the GSA, according to company and government officials.
Stretching the boundaries of large federal contracts is commonplace, and one the government has often overlooked, many contracting experts say.
That attitude may be shifting. Last week, CACI International Inc. said the GSA, the federal agency that administers large interagency contracts, had begun an investigation into the procedures the company used to place civilian interrogators at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq under an information technology contract. The Arlington defense contractor said the GSA is trying to determine whether CACI should be allowed to continue doing business with the government.
Companies are obliged to inform the government when the work they are being asked to do falls "outside the scope of their contract" a GSA spokeswoman said last week. But some experts say that policy is not widely known or generally enforced.
The Defense Department inspector general's report on contracting procedures in Iraq, issued in March, said "supplies and services were acquired quickly and contracting rules were either circumvented or liberally interpreted."
CACI was not mentioned in the report.
None of the companies that are named in the report -- MZM Inc. of the District, Science Applications International Corp. of San Diego, Unisys Corp. of Blue Bell, Pa., or MPRI -- are being investigated by the GSA's suspension and debarment office, Eleni Martin, an agency spokeswoman, said Friday.
Martin said she did not know whether the GSA had ever taken disciplinary action against a company for agreeing to do work beyond the specifications in a contract.
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