A bill (S-636) to require more public reporting by agencies on projects that are under-performing would help both the agencies and Congress identify and address such problems, says a report on the measure which is now ready for Senate floor voting.
The bill would require agencies to annually report on all projects that are $1 billion or more over their original budget or five years or more behind schedule, including information on each contractor, subcontractor, grantee, and subgrantee involved. With such a requirement, “agencies will more easily identify projects that are severely over budget or behind schedule. Therefore, both Congress and agencies will be better suited to manage taxpayer dollars,” it says.
It adds that “Not all projects meeting these requirements should be discontinued. For instance, there could have been funding delays, miscalculations or unforeseen challenges arising for an innovative project, or even expansions to a project to meet emerging needs.”
“However, if a project is missing deadlines or costing significantly more than originally estimated, Congress should be updated so the members can assess if mismanagement or fraud is taking place. Congress may also respond by passing legislation to address the underlying causes of the cost overruns and delays,” it says.
The report notes that in 2019 a bipartisan group of senators asked the 10 agencies with the highest annual spending on contracts to make such reports on a one-time basis. That yielded a list including DHS computer systems, DoD weapons systems, Energy Department clean-up projects, and renovation projects at the VA, among others; one, involving a Transportation Department train project, ultimately was canceled.
The report also cited a separate requirement that DoD report on major acquisition programs with significant cost overruns, which it said resulted in identifying 37 such programs over an eight-year period.