November 28, 2022

Performance Management Process at the Idaho National Laboratory

The Department of Energy spends about 90 percent of its annual budget on site facility management contracts, which includes the management and operation of its scientific laboratories using a performance-based contracting approach which focuses on the evaluation of actual performance goals and progress toward those goals as measured through a set of objectives.  Each objective’s success is measured based on demonstrated performance.  Given challenges identified in prior reporting on contract and project oversight, we initiated this audit to determine if the performance management process at the Idaho National Laboratory provides assurance that award fees correlated with contractor performance.

We found that the Idaho Operations Office’s performance management process was unclear in how it awarded fees that correlated with contractor performance at the Idaho National Laboratory.  Specifically, documentation of the Federal oversight activities was not always recorded in the official oversight repository or maintained outside the system.  Additionally, the Idaho Operations Office lacked a document that included the elements of a quality assurance surveillance plan that would facilitate the assessment of contractor performance and ensure the appropriateness of award fees.  

We attributed these issues to several factors, including a lack of a standardized approach as to how oversight was conducted, the level of documentation to substantiate oversight activities that took place throughout the course of the year to support the final grades and associated award fee, and a high turnover of Federal oversight personnel conducting and documenting oversight to support the final evaluation and fee determination.

The performance management process at the Idaho National Laboratory did not provide assurance that the award fees correlated with the contractor performance.  Without adequate documentation and the absence of elements of a quality assurance surveillance plan, the Idaho Operations Office was unable to adequately support the contractor’s performance and associated award fee of approximately $15 million.  Supporting effective performance management requires a culture of commitment to strong oversight.  In support of that culture, future Office of Inspector General audits of performance awards will analyze supporting documentation and evaluations to determine if the award fees are reasonable, while questioning any costs that are determined to be unreasonable or not fully supported.

To address the issues identified in this report, we have made four recommendations that, if fully implemented, should help improve the performance management process.