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  • audit report

Executive summary: Audit of agency controls governing the process for procurement of vendor training services

September 2000

If you require the entire printed version of the audit report, contact the Office of Inspector General, Federal Election Commission, 999 E Street, NW, Washington, DC 20463 or call Dorothy Maddox-Holland, Special Assistant, phone: (202) 694-1015, fax: (202) 501-8134, or e-mail:

Executive summary

The fundamental objective of any staff training program, or portion thereof, should be to ensure that the right training is provided to the right people at the right time and at the right cost. In addition, the Director of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management has included: "And in the Federal government, we must always take care to add ‘and in the right way’ to ensure that the Federal civil service is managed in accordance with the Merit System principles" (Testimony by the Honorable Janice R. Lachance before the Senate Subcommittee on Management, Restructuring, and the District of Columbia, on March 9, 2000). In her testimony the Director indicated that in order to accomplish human capital objectives, the Office of the President has included strategic human resources management as a priority management objective in the fiscal year 2001 budget. In addition, the Director went on to say:

"We must also continue to add value to the workforce that is already on board and find ways to promote the potential of our employees by making them more knowledgeable, more adaptable, and better able to meet changing needs. Part of every employee’s job will be to keep learning about the ever-changing work to be performed. The Clinton/Gore Administration realizes this and has made lifelong learning a priority for the Federal workforce. Continual learning and development are the keys here, with a focus on adding the skills and competencies that will improve results."

Audit summary

The Office of Inspector General (OIG) completed a limited-scope audit of the staff training program at the Federal Election Commission (FEC). We conducted our audit to assess the effectiveness and efficiency of management controls governing the process for procurement of training services obtained through outside vendors. Based on our audit, we conclude that agency controls governing that program are not effective or efficient. Our audit did not examine training developed "in-house," which is training created and administered by agency staff, for agency staff.

Furthermore, the Code of Federal Regulations requires Federal agencies to maintain a record of all agency training activities. However, based on our detailed examination of agency training records, we conclude that the FEC would not be capable of producing a complete record of training activities which would comply with Federal regulations.

The procurement of vendor training services at the FEC is comprised of a set of operating practices which seem to have simply evolved over time without the aid of written administrative policy and procedures. From agency staff we interviewed during our audit, there is unanimous agreement that the current process for submitting and approving staff requests for vendor training services is a cumbersome, paper intensive process which is extremely costly; especially in terms of the unnecessary expenditure in staff time. Moreover, this paper driven and labor intensive process results in excessive cycle time, needless duplication of work, misdirected and lost paperwork, and allows payments to vendors for services not received. Even so, the same procedures continue to be followed in the context of applying "past practice" to the process for requesting vendor training services. As a result, the FEC is also subject to the following risks:

  • Divisions and major FEC offices follow inconsistent policy and procedures.
  • Sound procurement decisions may be inhibited.
  • Cost reductions associated with a uniform approach, monitored by an oversight entity, may not be obtained.
  • Services may be procured that are below expectations.
  • Services may have been purchased in excess of competitive prices.

Audit recommendations

For the process to procure vendor training services, in the AUDIT RESULTS section of this report we recommend that the FEC:

  • develop policies and procedures that establish effective management controls;
  • design controls to ensure that each training request is properly routed through the agency;
  • require a standard form to be used for initiating a request;
  • maintain a complete record of all agency staff attending vendor training services;
  • require staff attending vendor training to certify that training services were received;
  • track related travel and other training expenses; and
  • replace the current paper-based system of records with an efficient electronic system.

In addition to our audit recommendations, suggestions for improvement of management practices have been provided to the FEC in the form of a Management Letter, which is included as Appendix A.

Summary of management’s response to audit results

On June 13, 2000, agency management concurred with six of the seven audit findings and related recommendations contained in the draft audit report. According to their response, three of the seven audit recommendations have already been implemented. In addition, management indicates that other audit recommendations will be incorporated as standard operating procedures to be developed by the agency for processing transactions requesting vendor training services. However, management chose to disagree with our audit recommendation to develop and implement a computer information system to replace the current paper based system of records. The complete text of management’s comments to our audit report can be found in this report in Appendix B. Our response to management’s comments is shown as Appendix C.