The General Services Administration overpaid more than $300,000 for the services of computer consultants whose qualifications were falsified to put them into higher pay brackets, according to a GSA draft audit report and internal investigators.
By overstating the number of years of experience and pertinent education the consultants had, some were paid as high as $45 an hour when they actually had no relevant experience, and others were paid at $25 an hour when they should have been paid only $16, according to auditors.
The consultants were employed by Computer Sciences Corp, and two of its sbucontractors. One former Computer Sciences employe has told GSA investigators the falsification scheme was uncovered within the company and top management officials notified, but no move was made to inform GSA or refund any money.
As far back as 1976, GSA had determined that it had been improperly overbilled after a disenchanted Computer Sciences employe complained to the agency. However, the agency has taken no action to recover the money, saying it would wait until the GSA's audit report - apparently drafted two years ago - is issued in final form. A copy of the draft report was obtained by The Washington Post.
GSA manages all government computer purchases, both for equipment and consulting services. GSA is unable to say with complete accuracy how much money that involves; the General Accounting Office, the audit arm of Congress, has estimated the figure at $10 billion a year.
GSA has been criticized by its auditors and the GAO for its performance in determining if computer requests by government agencies are justified, awarding computer contracts and verifying that the money is properly spent.
Computer Services Corp. has been paid nearly $100 million by GSA and other government agencies since 1972 for providing consultants and services to GSA to program and advise on the operation of remote terminal system for 7,500 government users. A remote terminal system allows access as needed to the computer from various locations.
A Computer Sciences spokesman said from El Segundo, Calif, Friday, "Allegations similar to those (overpayments) were made two years ago and were investigated by GSA at that time. Computer Sciences cooperated fully with GSA's office of audits in that 1976 investigation."
He added, "To our knowledge, based on a GSA briefing when the audit activity was concluded, the investigation found nothing to substantiate the allegations. We are aware of nothing at this time to change that conclusion."
Asked if the allegations were untrue, the spokesman said he could not go beyond the statement.
Recent stories in The Washington Post have detailed how GSA, which privides federal agencies with office space and supplies, has lost millions of dollars through widespraed waste, theft and fraud. The losses involved the way in which GSA repairs and maintains federal buildings, leases office space, buys office equipment and furniture, issues oil credit cards and sells stockpiles of unneeded strategic meterials.
The agency is the subject of justtice Department investigations into scandals that Vincent R. Alto, GSA's special counsel, has called the biggest in terms of money in the history of the U.S. government.
Involved in the federal government's computer program are about 10,000 computers which cost up to $35 million each, including consulting services to program them. The Social Security Administration alone has 17 such computers.
In its reports on computer use the GAO found that the Federal Aviation Administration and the Bureau of the Mint used computers purchased for them only 7 percent and 33 percent of the time, respectively.
"In a commercial company, they ask if this computer is worth the money." says an IBM Corp. executive who has sold extensively to GSA and asked not to be named. "In the federal government, the attitude is, 'It's available, so let's buy it.'"
Some government computers have been programmed by employes to play Star Trek or other games or to act as a substitute for flipping coins when deciding which employe pays for coffee each day, the executive said. Others are used to keep track of speaking engagements of department heads, he said.
"Somebody could write that (the schedules) on a piece of paper," he said.
The Computer Sciences contract was awarded by GSA in 1972 to allow all government agencies to make use of computer services through remote terminals at each agency as needed.
Currently, the firm charges $20 to $500 for an hour of complexity of the task and the volume of data stored.
Last year, GSA auditors reported that GSA had failed to assure that Computer Sciences was rendering accurate bills. Periodically, GSA would try to verify whether the charges from Computer Sciences were accurate by running check on the time the computer was in use. However, according to the auditors, GSA always told Computer Sciences when these random checks would be made.
GSA auditors began looking into Computer Science's contract for computer services after a former Computer Sciences employe complained to then-Rep. Alan W. Steedman (R-Tex) of alleged improprieties by the company and its subcontractors.
Although GSA's contract with Computer Sciences specified that government auditors were to have access to its books and those of its subcontractors, the firm failed to include such a clause in its subcontract with Icarus Corp. of Silver Spring, one of two subcontractors found to have overbilled through Computer Sciences for its consultants' work.
However, the auditors were able to determine the extent of overbilling by matching the statements of experience and education in the consultants' resumes with the billing rate used by Computers Services. They found that the company was billing GSA at rates of payment not justified by the amount of college education or work experience listed in the resumes.
Altogether, GSA overpaid 25 consultants in 1975 by more than $300,000, the draft audit report shows. In addition, GSA investigators who have been interviewing some of the consultants have determined that there was some falsification of qualifications listed in resumes, leading them to presume that the overbilling might well be more than $300,000.
"Some of them were ludicrous," a source said. "They counted working as a part-time grocery clerk as computer experience."