Nuclear Regulatory Commission's System for Acquiring and Using Outside Assistance and Expertise

Gao ID: 108991 April 2, 1979

A close working relationship exists between the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and the Department of Energy (DOE), and NRC spent 86 percent of its funds for acquiring outside goods and services from DOE in fiscal year 1978. In the absence of competition in placing these contracts, GAO believes that a rational process of justification for the use of DOE laboratories should be shown for each project. NRC officials prefer to place research work with DOE rather than outside contractors in order to: avoid potential conflict of interest situations; take advantage of the unique research facilities and scientific expertise available at DOE laboratories; and save time by avoiding normal procurement procedures. GAO does not agree that placing work with DOE laboratories will assure these results. It is recommended that the Chairman of NRC should require the NRC program offices to justify placements of work with DOE laboratories by showing the reasons and circumstances surrounding the placements and by comparing the related cost when other entities have the capability for performing independent work. Each such justification should be reviewed by the Division of Contracts at NRC. NRC should seek greater competition in contract awards or else fully document noncompetitive award justifications, and ensure that awards resulting from unsolicited proposals are justified. Actions should be taken to improve contract monitoring and to alleviate the contract closeout backlog. Consultant appointments should be fully justified and the corresponding work descriptions should be specific. Controls should be tightened over payments for consultants' services.

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