COVID-Related Audits and the DCAA’s New Audit Direction

Merle M. DeLancey Jr. and Craig Stetson*

This is the third in a series of posts regarding what we believe will be an onslaught of government investigations and audits of COVID relief funds and contracting. Previously, we identified likely categories of programs, contracts, and companies the government might investigate or audit. Below, we discuss the Defense Contract Audit Agency’s (“DCAA”) current direction, interests, and initiatives related to contractors’ receipt of COVID relief funds and the impact an uncertain business environment may have on government contract pricing and costing forecasts.

COVID Relief Funds

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (“CARES Act”) funding opportunities come with unique government contract compliance requirements and financial reporting obligations. The funding is not “free” and may result in financial consequences to unwary contractors. DCAA knows this and will be conducting audits to test contractors’ compliance with unique relief fund requirements. Contractors unaware of these accounting and reporting requirements risk DCAA questioning or denying costs.

In January 2021, DCAA issued an audit alert to its regional offices pertaining to COVID relief legislation and regulation.[1] The audit alert includes frequently asked questions and answers (“FAQs”) concerning contractors’ request or receipt of COVID relief funding. Originally released last summer, the FAQs have been revised and expanded several times. The FAQs telegraph DCAA’s position on various instances where COVID relief funding intersects with or impacts government contract cost accounting and compliance.

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Blank Rome Represents Qbase LLC in Successful GAO Protest of DOJ Award Bid for IT Support Contract

A Blank Rome government contracts team obtained relief for Qbase LLC in a protest before the U.S. Government Accountability Office (“GAO”) involving the Department of Justice’s (“DOJ”) failure to award a $4.5 billion IT support contract to Qbase, a computer-related services and consulting provider.

The GAO concluded that the DOJ’s determination of which contract proposal provided the best value to the government was unreasonable because the DOJ failed to meaningfully consider the price of the proposals. Moreover, in its assessment of the proposals’ technical merit, instead of performing the required qualitative assessment of each offeror’s technical proposal, the DOJ unreasonably based its determination on a mechanical comparison of adjectival ratings (“very good,” “satisfactory”) between the offerors. In its decision, the GAO stated, “In sum, the agency’s best-value determination is unreasonable because the agency performed a mechanical tradeoff analysis that failed to meaningfully consider price and resulted in the exclusion of technically acceptable proposals from consideration for award.” The GAO sustained the protest, recommended that the DOJ conduct a new best-value analysis giving proper weight to pricing, and awarded Qbase its attorneys’ fees.

For more information, please read GAO Says DOJ Unfairly Assessed Bids On $4.5B IT Deal (Law360, November 20, 2020).

The Blank Rome team included Richard J. ConwayAdam Proujansky, and Michael J. Slattery.