Determination Into Whether the Office of Saline Water, Department of the Interior, Paid a Private Contractor $38,790 To Prepare Testimony for a Congressional Hearing To Justify Its Existence

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1971-08-02.

Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)

                              COMPTROLLER      GENERAL     OF      THE       UNIT
                                             WASHINGTON.    D.C.         20548

  B-172647                                         RELEASED
                        0 +P                    or9        7ti2y
  Dear Senator           Proxmire:
                                                                                                 ' _'
                                                                                            -39 si
         Reference    is made to your letter,        dated April      12,    1971,
  requesting     us to determine     whether   the Office      of Saline      Water,
1 Department     of the. Interior   , paid a private      contractor                 33
/ -T%nviresearch    Corporation,     Bethesda,    Maryland)'-$-38,790       to pre-
  pare testimony      for a congressional      hearing    to justify      its exist-
  ence and, if true,       to determine     the legality      of such a contract.
          The Saline     Water Conversion      Act of 1952 authorizes       the Of-
  fice of Saline       Water to provide       for research  into,    and d~ve.lop-
  ment of, practical        means for the economical'production--from-
  sea water and other saline          waters--    of water suitable    for agri-
  cultural,    industrial,     municipal,      and other beneficial      consump-
  tive    uses and for other purposes.
         On August 6, 1970, the Office           of Saline      Water initiated
 work aimed at determining            ways in which desalting          technology
 could be practicably         applied     for the greater      benefit       of the
 water users of the Nation.             The activities       to be covered        in-
 cluded identifying        potential      user communities,       developing        a
 plan of action        to meet the needs of these communities,                 assess-
 ing financial       needs and availability          of assistance       programs     for
 desalting     plants,    and recommending       changes required          to imple-
 ment a plan of action.
         To assist    in the above effort,         the Office      of Saline    Water
 awarded a contract,         in the amount of $13,863,           to Enviresearch
 on September      21, 1970, for a study of the feasibility                 of de-
 salting    as a practical        means of augmenting        a usable water sup-
 g&Y*     The work was to consist          of economic     studies    andsurveys‘"\
 to determine      present      and prospective      costs of producing        water
 suitable     for agricultural,        industrial,      and municipal      purposes
 by desalting      instead      of by other standard       methods,    such as
 streamflow      and groundwater       aquifers.
         The contract     was amended on February     22, 1971, to provide
 for (1) selecting        communities  having  need for desalting       in the
 next 5 years,        (2) determining  the communities'    capabilities      to
 finance    and operate      desalting plants,  and (3) ascertaining       the

                                     50TH   ANNIVERSARY              1921-          1971

contributions        and effects   of desalting     upon the emerging envi-
ronmental     policies    of the Federal      Government.   The cost of
the additional        work increased   the amount of the contract     by
$24,927 to a total        of $38,790.
     The contract  was awarded under the              authority    of section    2(e)
of Public Law 87-295, which amended the               Saline    Water Conversion
Act of 1952 and which directed  that the              Secretary    of the Interior:
      "Undertake    economic     studies    and surveys    to determine
      present    and prospective       costs of producing      water for
      beneficial    consumptive      purposes   in various     parts of
      the United    States by the leading         saline   water pro-
      cesses as compared with other standard             methods."
       We were advised    by officials         of the Office    of Saline     Water
that Enviresearch     had prepared       initial     drafts  of legislation,        a
draft   of an opening statement        for use at the congressional            hear-
ing, and a list     of points    that might be raised          at such hearings.
We noted that the work concerning              the drafting   of legislation       was
not a requirement     under the terms of the contract.               The Office
of Saline    Water requested     the work, and the contractor             agreed to
perform   the work.
       We were advised        by officials        of the Office     of Saline     Water
that the drafts       of legislation,          the draft   of an opening      state-
ment, and the list         of points      prepared     by Enviresearch     were essen-
tially      a side effort     stemming      from work under the aforementioned
contract.        They stated     that the effort        had been completed        and
that no additional         work along these lines          was contemplated.          Also
they advised       us that Enviresearch           would be required      to fully     com-
plete     its commitments       under the contract        and that the final         re-
port would be delivered            to the Office       of Saline    Water by August 31,
        On   the basis    of our review,      we have concluded        that there is
nothing      in the law to prohibit        the Office     of Saline      Water from
entering       into a contract     for drafting      of legislation       and the prep-
aration      of testimony      for congressional      hearings      and therefore,
although       we believe    the arrangement      should have been formally         in-
corporated        in the contract     with Enviresearch,         we find no legal
basis to       object   to the subject     contract.


             We plan to make no further         distribution      of this report    unless
     copies    are specifically      requested,       and then we shall     make distri-
     bution    only after      your agreement    has been obtained       or public     an-
     nouncement     has been made by you concerning            the contents    of this
                                                         Sincerely    yours,

                                                         Comptroller   General
                                                         of the United   States
eZ   The Honorable     William   Proxmire
     United States     Senate