Vitter to GAO: Audit the Corps

Asks Government Accountability Office to audit Corps practices from 2004 - 2011

(Washington, D.C.) – U.S. Sen. David Vitter is asking the Government Accountability Office to conduct a comprehensive audit of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ funding and contracting practices from 2004 - 2011. Vitter sent a letter to the GAO’s Comptroller General Gene Dodaro today outlining his request.

            “There has been far too much inefficiency at the Corps of Engineers, and they need to show us where the billions of taxpayer dollars they receive are being used,” Vitter said. “Backlogs and red tape have plagued the Corps, especially since Hurricanes Katina and Rita, and I want to start implementing necessary reforms that will cut costs and speed up critical flood control projects.”

            Vitter will also be introducing legislation later this week that will reform the Corps’ delivery of critical flood control projects. Vitter’s bill would create a pilot program aimed at eliminating red-tape and expediting backlogged projects by delegating more project management responsibility to state and local governments in an effort to expedite the delivery of projects.

            A copy of Vitter’s letter to the GAO is below:

December 6, 2011

The Honorable Gene Dodaro
Comptroller General
U.S. Government Accountability Office
441 G St. N. W.
Washington DC 20548

Dear Mr. Dodaro:

            As you know the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) is our nation’s primary water resource development agency.  The Corps receives a budget of almost $5 billion each year to study, design, construct, operate, and maintain a wide range of water projects for purposes such as flood control, navigation, hurricane protection, and ecosystem restoration.  However, as the GAO, National Academy of Sciences and others have reported in the past there are many inefficiencies in how the Corps conducts its planning, design, construction, operation and maintenance of water resources projects.  This has led to a backlog of millions of dollars of projects that have not yet been started and hundreds of incomplete projects. These delays continue to increase the total costs for completing projects that were often authorized and started decades ago. 

            In addition, in light of the recent events related to corrupt contracting practices uncovered by the Department of Justice at the Corps, I believe that it is necessary to undertake a comprehensive audit of the Corps’ civil works funding and contracting practices.  In particular, I would like the GAO review to focus on operation and maintenance activities, flood protection projects, environmental mitigation, coastal restoration, and emergency funding that the Corps has received during the period covering fiscal years 2004-2011. 

            As you conduct this review, I would like you to be alert for potential inefficiencies in how the Corps operates and to help identify areas of potential cost savings. The areas that I am particularly interested in as the focus of this review include the following:

            (1) For flood control projects undertaken by the Corps during this period of time, to what extent did cost overruns occur on projects and what were the primary factors that contributed to the differences between cost estimates and actual costs?

            (2) What internal controls and oversight procedures does the Corps have in place to ensure that irregular or illegal contracting practices are not occurring throughout the agency and how can these controls and procedures be strengthened? 
            (3) To what extent does the Corps coordinate with and provide updated information to its non-federal project sponsors regarding changes to Corps policy requirements, project scope and estimated/actual costs?  Is this process transparent and to what extent does the Corps obtain non-federal sponsor buy-in to these proposed changes?

            (4) For dredging contracts conducted for operations and maintenance, please provide information on how many contracts the Corps has undertaken during this period, and the costs associated with these contracts.

            (5) How does the Corps determine whether to undertake functions and projects with agency resources or through private-sector contracts and do these determinations comply with Office of Management and Budget’s Circular A–76?

            I recognize that this is a very large undertaking, and that this work may not be able to be completed under a single review but instead may require a series of studies over a period of time to fully answer all of these questions.  However, I would appreciate it if you could place the highest priority on starting this work as soon as possible.  Thank you for your attention to this request. 


                                                                        David Vitter
                                                                        United States Senator

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