Part One – The Illegitimate Birth
One of my clients is a small government contractor in the South with only a few employees. They are developing a technology that anyone could easily identify as critical in both military and civilian applications. The development is at a ‘job phase’ where units are built individually in the attempt to improve the process and the technology. Each one of these individual units are functional and critical.
Almost all of the national labs, many foreign countries, and others in industry have purchased these units and employed them immediately, even as the technology continues to be developed. I should say that the technology saves lives and is not a weapon.
Of course the military wanted the technology; but instead of going out and buying a unit, the military issued a contract, a cost type contract. In 2010 the United States Air Force issued the contractor a cost type contract.
The Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR) restricts the government from issuing cost type contracts to contractors unless “The contractor’s accounting system is adequate for determining costs applicable to the contract or order…” (FAR 16.301-3(a)(3)). During this time, standing orders required the Air Force to wait on an opinion from DCAA about the contractor’s accounting system and for DCMA to issue an approval of the accounting system. This was during a period where local contracting officers could not always know when and if DCAA would show up and the Air Force really wanted the technology and issued the contract without an approved or audited accounting system.
Why the Air Force did not simply follow the example of the National Labs and issue a fixed price contract or a purchase order, we will never know. Instead, the Air Force issued a cost type contract to a contractor without an approved or even audited accounting system.
The contractor did not realize that the Air Force actions transferred almost all of the risk concerning the contract to the contractor, the opposite of what a cost type contract is ‘designed’ to do.
The fact that the FAR prohibited the Air Force from issuing the contract is not a defense the contractor may raise as one contractor found out when they complained to the Armed Services Board of Contract Appeals. In this case, the contractor claimed the government owed them hundreds of thousands of dollars. The government successfully argued that the contractor’s inadequate accounting system made any such claim impossible to support. An adequate accounting system protects the contractor and the government.
Of course, the Air Force or DCMA did order an audit and the contractor hired and consultant (not us) to help them with DCAA. This did not turn out well.
But a government contractor was born, arguably illegitimately, but born none the less.
Next, “How DCAA, Contractor, and Consultant Can Ruin an Audit”.