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3d DOD Audit Rips USACE on Afghan Work

Thursday, December 5, 2013

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For the third time in 18 months, the Department of Defense is reporting serious lapses in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' oversight of multimillion-dollar construction projects in Afghanistan.

Lack of supervision and quality assurance by the Corps of Engineers' Transatlantic District-North (TAN)  has now yielded $37.6 million in military construction projects in Afghanistan that do not meet federal standards, DOD auditors conclude in their third critical report.

Two DOD audits last year noted similar shortcomings in more than $100 million in construction projects by the same USACE division.

Bagram C&C Facilities (Cmm Center)
Photos, Tables: DOD IG

The Communications Center at Afghanistan's Bagram Airfield is one of six Command & Control Facilities buildings reviewed in the critical DOD audit.

The new audit shows that contractor performance ratings on seven buildings, including a new Joint Operations headquarters, were deemed "unsatisfactory" two years ago, but the Corps took no action to make improvements.

The projects' area engineer "stated that documenting the QA process was secondary and that completing the [Special Operations Forces military construction projects] was the top priority," DOD's Office of Inspector General writes in U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Transatlantic District-North Needs to Improve Oversight of Construction Contractors in Afghanistan, released Nov. 25.

Monitoring Contractor Performance

The 40-page audit, one in a series of reports on military construction projects in Afghanistan, looked at whether the Corps of Engineers "properly monitored contractor performance during construction and adequately performed quality assurance (QA) oversight responsibilities" regarding two projects:

  • Phase 1 ($17.7 million) of construction of a Special Operations Force Task Force Headquarters Complex; and
  • Phase 2 ($19.9 million) of construction of six buildings in the Command and Control Facilities. The buildings are for administration; morale, welfare, and recreation; communications; vehicle maintenance; tactical operations; and an entry control point.

The Corp of Engineers' Transatlantic Division North (USACE TAN), based in Winchester, VA, is responsible for military construction supporting U.S. forces in the Middle East and Central Asia.

As of July 2012, that division was overseeing 43 construction projects at Bagram Airfield with a total value of $542.2 million.

QA Table

All 10 quality-control plans submitted by contractors were missing key components, auditors said.

Both of the projects reviewed in the current audit began in September 2010 and were originally scheduled to be completed in March 2013; both are now set for completion this month.

The reports did not detail any construction deficiencies with the buildings.

'Oversight Shortfalls'

Auditors found that the Corps' and contracting officials' oversight of the two projects "was not conducted in accordance with the [Federal Acquisition Regulations, or FAR] or USACE guidance." FAR Subpart 46.4 requires government contract QA as needed "to determine that the supplies or services conform to contract requirements."

"[O]btaining quality construction is the responsibility of both the construction contractor and the government with the mutual goal of providing a quality product conforming to contract requirements," auditors wrote.

Bagram Joint Ops Vehicle Maintenance

Phase 2 of the Command & Control Facilities buildings, including vehicle maintenance, cost $19.9 million.

In the case of the Bagram buildings, "the oversight shortfalls occurred in part because even though the projects were initiated more than 2 years ago, current QA officials did not always have critical QA documents available before their arrival and could not explain why QA requirements were not fully executed from the projects' start."

Engineers Cited

The report criticizes the projects' area engineer, resident engineer, project engineer and construction representative. Specifically, it found:

  • Area and resident engineers did not provide project engineers and construction representatives with a USACE-required Statement of Understanding and Compliance for QA officials to acknowledge their understanding of their responsibilities and duties;
  • Project engineers have been working with incomplete contractors' QC plans (each of 10 plans submitted was missing key components) and did not prepare required QA plans for surveillance of the projects;
  • Construction contractors did not have an inspection process in place when the projects began and developed only a partial document during construction;
  • USACE technical specialists did not inspect electrical, mechanical or structural features until day 497 of one project and day 504 of the other; and
  • Project engineers did not perform the required oversight duties, including verifying the contractors who performed technical requirements and inspecting that work.
Contractor Evaluation

An interim evaluation of the two projects in November 2011 rated the contractors' work unsatisfactory, but no changes were made, auditors reported.

The report also notes that USACE's interim evaluation of the projects' mechanical, electrical and structural features in November 2011 rated the contractors' overall work "unsatisfactory."

In April 2013, the audit said, the area engineer "stated that the contractors' work had not significantly improved, further highlighting the increased risk that contract requirements may not be met."

'Systematic Lack of Oversight'

This is the third time in 18 months that DOD auditors have taken USACE TAN to task for "lack of effective oversight in Afghanistan." Other audits, in November 2012 and May 2012, made similar criticisms of other USACE TAN-supervised projects.

Bagram Joint Ops Center

Phase 1 of Bagram's Special Operations Force HQ Complex cost $17.7 million.

The November 2012 audit reviewed $49.6 million in military construction at Bagram Airfield. The May 2012 audit reviewed "major deficiencies" at a $60.2 million detention facility in Parwan.

Taken together, the three reports "indicate a systemic lack of oversight for [military construction] projects in Afghanistan by USACE TAN officials," DOD auditors said.

In the current case, auditors made a number of specific recommendations for USACE. Some were accepted, and some were not.

For example, DOD recommended that the division perform external QA reviews every 90 days; the Corps said it would review the program "quarterly as deemed necessary" rather than every 90 days.

DOD's Office of Inspector General has issued six reports in the past five years about military construction projects in Afghanistan. Unrestricted reports are available here.

   

Tagged categories: Construction; Department of Defense (DOD); Engineers; Government contracts; Quality assurance; Quality control; U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

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