Questionable Census Bureau Indirect Cost Charges and Management Practices for Reimbursable Work

Gao ID: GGD-80-15 October 12, 1979

During a review of the procedures used by the Bureau of the Census for charging Government agencies for reimbursable work, GAO questioned the propriety of the charges to reimbursable work through regular interfund project accounts.

It was determined that the Census Bureau needs to insure that costs charged to reimbursable projects actually benefit these projects and that cost variances are properly distributed. Customers are probably being overcharged for reimbursable work because indirect costs are charged that: (1) do not appear to benefit their projects, and (2) would have been incurred by the Census Bureau in performing its own activities. The Census Bureau does not include reimbursable customers in the distribution of year-end deficits or surpluses resulting from indirect cost charge variances, and this could result in augmenting appropriations. Reimbursable customers are also charged inappropriately for: (1) a portion of Department of Commerce overhead that was not shown to be related to reimbursable projects, and (2) personnel charges improperly coded on time sheets. The Agency for International Development (AID) needs to provide timely funding to the Census Bureau for reimbursable projects. The Census Bureau is financing AID work through other customers' advances and its accounts payable until AID funds are received.

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