VOA expecting riots in Russia? Or maybe Novorossiya? Taxpayers pay for anti-riot car and much more

BBG Watch Commentary

Day view of the Red Square, Moscow Kremlin and Lenin mausoleum, Moscow, RussiaThe Washington Post “In the Loop” columnist Al Kamen is perhaps making fun of the federal Voice of America (VOA) management for trying to buy a riot and crash-proof “Heavy Duty Vehicle for VOA Moscow Correspondent Bureau” — “VOA expecting riots in Russia? Or maybe Novorossiya?,” By Al Kamen, “In the Loop,” The Washington Post, September 4, 2014.

We do not begrudge the VOA correspondent extra security, but we doubt that this kind of expensive car will make any difference if Russian soldiers or Russian supported rebels decide to stop it. The Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), which manages both the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), should consider using RFE/RL journalists for reporting from more dangerous locations in Russia and in the entire region because they not only speak local languages but also know the area far better than most VOA correspondents would. Local expertise and language skills are the best correspondent security protections.

It appears, however, that VOA has a lot of money to spent and has to spend it before the end of the fiscal year on October 1 or the money will be lost. We can also expect a lot of international travel in September by VOA and International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB) executives and other senior staffers.

The Voice of America is in the midst of what can be described as a management meltdown. While the VOA Moscow News Bureau now has a different American employee in charge, an inspection conducted in April 2013 by the Office of Inspector General (OIG) found that at that time the VOA office in Moscow had no written guidance on site regarding the use of the vehicle and a former practice of recording mileage and annotating the purpose of each trip on the vehicle’s Daily Trip Record “was discontinued without a valid reason.” Neither the previous VOA correspondent in Moscow nor the driver kept any record of how the vehicle was used, OIG inspectors noted in 2013.

This is, however, a truly minor deficiency compared to waste and abuse for which senior VOA executives are responsible in Washington, DC, such as illegal contracting and illegal employment of hundreds of contractors as full-time employees and not withholding their taxes or providing them with benefits, proper training and supervision, as reported by the Office of Inspector General.

But how much does it really cost to keep a permanent Voice of America correspondent in Moscow as a U.S. federal government employee stationed abroad? One senior Voice of America reporter based in Washington, DC had a base salary of $155,500 in 2013; another made $136,771 in 2013, the federal salaries data base shows.

One senior Voice of America foreign correspondent based in Europe had a base annual salary of $150,915 in 2013, not counting numerous other pay adjustments and benefits, including sick leave, annual leave, home leave, moving costs, education for children, subsidized health care, strong job security, etc. and no job-related out-of-pocket expenses that would not be refunded by the U.S. government, such as work-related travel, per diem during travel or buying expensive equipment. The base salary for a less senior VOA foreign correspondent was $102,433. Many American journalists working for commercial media outlets or simply freelancing part-time would love to have these salaries and job security.

Salary and benefits are, however, only part of the large cost of keeping a VOA correspondent abroad as a U.S. federal government employee. If the estimated total cost of keeping a VOA staff correspondent and the VOA News Bureau in Moscow is about half a million dollars a year, or more, what do U.S. taxpayers and international audiences get for it?

We have some additional questions and additional material for Mr. Kamen to explore if he so chooses and for BBG Watch readers to draw their own conclusions.

A search of the Voice of America English News website produced seven online news reports filed by one VOA foreign correspondent in August 2014 and also seven reports in July. There could have been some other reports, especially radio reports, that an online search would not show, but text and video versions of the same report were each counted separately. It also seems that this VOA correspondent has just started a new assignment.

It would be useful to know whether the current VOA correspondent in Moscow is now there on a permanent assignment or a temporary assignment, but in any case the cost of keeping him there will be very high. Does the correspondent understand and speak Russian? How many years of Russian studies did the VOA correspondent in Moscow have? — are some other questions that need to be asked. Russia and Russian politics are not something that even an excellent news correspondent can learn to understand in a month. It takes years of study to understand Russia and to see through the propaganda being aggressively put out by President Putin and state media outlets he controls.

A search of the Voice of America English News website for reports by another VOA foreign correspondent based at a different VOA News Bureau in Europe has produced five reports in August (the correspondent may have taken a vacation, was on sick leave or was training in August during the height of the crises in Ukraine and in Iraq), 23 online reports in July, 13 online reports in June, 18 online news reports in May, and 12 online reports in April.

Some VOA English domestic senior correspondents, also making six figure salaries, appear to produce even less than VOA English foreign correspondents. A search of the VOA English News website showed 5 online reports in August, 1 in July (perhaps the correspondent was on vacation), 1 in June, and 4 in May for one senior VOA correspondent in Washington, DC. Another VOA English domestic senior correspondent produced 10 online reports in August, 9 in July, 9 in June, and 11 in May. When translated into other languages, however, these reports have a much wider usage, but these numbers are designed to show what an average VOA English correspondent produces for the web.

The average monthly output for a typical Voice of America English foreign correspondent, some costing U.S. taxpayers up to half a million dollars a year when all costs are included in addition to their salaries, may be about 15 multimedia (text and video) online news reports per month, not counting any extra radio spots, most of which would be repeats of online reports.

Most of Voice of America routine daily online news reporting in English about Russia and Ukraine is now done not by the VOA correspondent on Moscow, but from Washington, where the VOA Central Newsroom has been decimated by the management and is so poorly managed that VOA often misses significant Washington news stories, many related to U.S. foreign policy.

Reporting on U.S. news and from Washington, DC on U.S. foreign policy news is where the Voice of America falls far short and often misses important news stories.

Reforming International BroadcastingA bipartisan reform bill pending in Congress, H.R. 4490, would force VOA to focus more on U.S. news, but some senior VOA English correspondents strongly object to the legislation charging that it would force them to become mouthpieces for the U.S. government. Two main sponsors of the bill, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA) and Ranking Member Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), deny that Congress wants to undermine VOA’s journalistic integrity.

On foreign news, the VOA correspondent in Moscow is not responsible for all Russia-related news reporting. A lot of the routine daily reporting about Russia and Ukraine is also left to other VOA staff correspondents and VOA freelance stringers sent on short assignments to Ukraine and other countries in the region. Most VOA employees strongly support most management reforms proposed in the bill.

BBG Watch has found that the new VOA correspondent in Moscow has done a good job of balanced reporting. But BBG Watch has also observed that some VOA stringers and some VOA correspondents on temporary assignments in the region appear to lack sufficient experience in Russian affairs and depth of analysis needed to deal effectively with the Russian propaganda under President Putin. They sometimes repeat the Kremlin’s disinformation claims without any challenge or without providing balance and proper historical and political context.

Some VOA English News reports about Russia and Ukraine written by less experienced VOA correspondents and stringers even read as if they were posted by Russia’s state media outlet RT (formerly Russia Today) and, in our view, some violate the VOA Charter and the VOA Journalistic Code. We attribute these failures mostly to lack of leadership, poor management and poor editing in Washington. Fortunately, VOA Russian and Ukrainian services almost never use these deficient news report and produce their own, but other VOA foreign language services do use them from time to time because they lack sufficient expertise to judge them.

Having a permanent, experienced Voice of America correspondent in Moscow with a strong background in Russian studies and a good knowledge of Russian may enhance VOA news service for international audiences, but much of the same news reporting from Russia can also be done by generally more experienced RFE/RL reporters, both Russian-speaking and English-speaking, at a considerably lower cost to U.S. taxpayers. RFE/RL reporters, however, cannot be expected to report as Voice of America correspondents.

Having a Voice of America correspondent in Moscow who is an expert on Russia and on Putin’s propaganda and disinformation can be of great help, but ultimately it depends on the cost-benefit analysis and any measurable impact, such as Facebook “Shares,” retweets and readers’ comments. These are embarrassingly low for some Voice of America foreign correspondents, as well as domestic ones. Reports filed by the current VOA Moscow correspondent, however, show a larger number of readers’ comments, Facebook “Shares” and retweets than many other VOA news reports — a few dozen comments or even a few hundred Facebook “Shares” and retweets — but nowhere as many as what Russia’s RT and BBC reports regularly get (often thousands Facebook “Shares’).

The question of much it really costs to keep a VOA correspondent in Moscow can be divided into several sub-questions:

How much is the salary for the correspondent plus benefits, plus any cost-of-living allowance for Moscow?

How much does the U.S. government pay for a rent-free apartment for the correspondent and his dependents, if any? (The apartment apparently includes a small studio and some office space.)

How much do U.S. taxpayers pay for the office space, utilities, security and other services at the Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty office in Moscow, which the Voice of America correspondent and his local staff use? (In March 2013, The VOA Moscow News Bureau moved out of its original office and now has some office space in the RFE/RL Russian Service new facility.)

How much do U.S. taxpayers have to pay for elementary and high school education for the correspondent’s children, if there are any?

What is the cost of periodic travel to the U.S. for the correspondent and any dependents on home leave, which is in addition to regular vacations? Vacation travel is not paid by taxpayers.

What is the budget for correspondent’s work-related in-country and foreign travels, including U.S. government per diem on trips outside of Moscow?

How much are payments for International Cooperative Administration Support Services (ICASS) for the VOA Moscow News Bureau, including human resources, cashier, security, and health services?

According to the information in the 2013 OIG report, the “VOA Moscow News Bureau has one American correspondent (on a Foreign Service limited non-career appointment), two local hires: an office manager and a driver; and a local American resident who was hired using a blanket purchase agreement, an issue discussed in the Management Controls section of this report.”

The OIG report says that the operating budget for the VOA Moscow News Bureau and the International Broadcasting Bureau’s (IBB) Office of Strategy and Development (OSD), which has a local contractor responsible for initiating and managing advertising placement efforts, is estimated at $239,028 and $82,372 respectively.

Keeping one full-time Voice of America correspondent as a federal Foreign Service limited non-career appointment and the VOA News Bureau in Moscow may very well cost half a million dollars per year or more when salaries, benefits and all operating costs are combined.

Assuming that a Voice of America correspondent working the at VOA news bureau in Moscow files 10 to 15 news reports per month for the web, that could mean about 100 to 150 news reports per year (excluding three-to-four-week annual vacations and six-week home leave every three years), the cost of one three to five minute report could amount to about $2,500 – $5,000.

“The Voice of America Moscow News Bureau has several administrative weaknesses in the areas of contracting, cashiering operations, time and attendance, and property management, the Office of Inspector General (OIG) found in April 2013 and called on “Voice of America senior management needs to address these deficiencies in a prompt manner.”

Have these deficiencies been addressed? But what really needs to be addressed is the lack of leadership and good management on the part of senior Voice of America executives, especially their failure to ensure high-quality news reporting from Washington, as well as from abroad.

 

HEAVY DUTY VEHICLE FOR VOA MOSCOW CORRESPONDENT BUREAU

Solicitation Number: BBG90-Q-14-MOSCOW-001

Notice Type:

Combined Synopsis/Solicitation

Synopsis:

Added: Aug 27, 2014 1:16 pm

(i) THIS IS A COMBINED SYNOPSIS/SOLICITATION FOR A COMMERCIAL ITEM PREPARED IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE FORMAT IN SUBPART 12.6 AS SUPPLEMENTED WITH ADDITIONAL INFORMATION INCLUDED IN THIS NOTICE. THIS ANNOUNCEMENT CONSTITUTES THE ONLY SOLICITATION; QUOTES ARE BEING REQUESTED AND A WRITTEN SOLICITATION WILL NOT BE ISSUED.
(ii) The solicitation number is BBG90-Q-14-MOSCOW-001. This acquisition is issued as a Request for Quotation (RFQ).

(iii) This solicitation document and incorporated provisions and clauses are those in effect from the Federal Acquisition Circular (FAC) 2005-076 dated August 25, 2014.

(iv) The associated North American Industry Classification Systems (NAICS) code for this acquisition is 423110 with a small business size standard of 100 employees.

(v) The Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), Voice of America (VOA) Moscow Correspondent Bureau requests responses from qualified sources capable of providing the below. The offeror may submit a Firm Fixed Price quote for the following contract line items (CLINs):

CLIN 0001: Vehicle, new, the intelligent all-wheel drive, anti-lock brakes (ABS) , Electronic Stability AdvanceTrac, including a system to prevent tipping (RSC), Hill-start assist uphill (HSA), Power Steering, Independent front and rear suspension, 5-seater saloon , air conditioning. This vehicle will require a local warranty. QUANTITY: 1 EACH, Price: ____________. All prices are in U.S. Dollars.

CLIN 0002: Value Added Tax (VAT), custom and duties for import of a vehicle for non-diplomatic bureau. Price: ________________. All prices are in U.S. Dollars.

CLIN 0003: All responses should include trade in of current vehicle, 2001 Jeep, against the purchase price of new vehicle. Current condition of 2001 Jeep is poor. Quantity: 1 EACH, Price______________. All prices are in US Dollars.

(vi) Vehicle must withstand riot situations or crashes and have the ability to get into, and out of, difficult physical situations in rural areas. It is mandatory this vehicle can be serviced on the local market in Moscow, Russia. Original equipment manufactured (OEM) parts shall be readily available throughout Russia. The price shall include all labor, materials, overhead, profit, and transportation necessary to deliver the required items to VOA Moscow Correspondent Bureau.

(vii) Deliver all ordered items to the VOA Moscow Bureau, Malaya Dmitrovka 20, 5th Floor, Moscow Russia, 127006, 15 days after date of contract purchase order award. This includes clearing the vehicle through Russian customs.

(viii) The Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) provision, FAR 52.212-1 Instruction to Offerors-Commercial Items, applies to this solicitation. Full-text of FAR provisions and clauses may be obtained from the Internet Web address at: http://acquisition.gov/far/index.html.

(ix) The Government will award a Commercial Items, Firm-Fixed-Price purchase order resulting from this RFQ to the responsible offeror whose offer conforming to the RFQ based on the lowest price. We intend to award a purchase order based on initial quotations, without holding discussions, although we may hold discussions with companies in the competitive range if there is a need to do so. As follows, are the Evaluation Factors:

• Award will be made to the lowest priced, acceptable, responsible bidder. The bidder shall submit a completed quotation.

• The Government reserves the right to reject quotations that are unreasonably low or high in price.

• The lowest price will be determined by adding the offered prices, and arriving at a grand total.

• The Government will determine bidder acceptability will be determined by assessing the bidder’s compliance with the terms of the RFQ.

• The Government will determine bidder responsibility by analyzing whether the apparent successful bidder complies with the requirements of FAR 9.1, including:

*adequate financial resources or the ability to obtain them;
*ability to comply with the required performance period, taking into consideration all existing commercial and governmental business commitments;
*satisfactory record of integrity and business ethics;
*necessary organization, experience, and skills or the ability to obtain them;
*necessary equipment and facilities or the ability to obtain them; and be otherwise qualified and eligible to receive an award under applicable laws and regulations.

(x) Offerors shall include a completed copy of the provision FAR 52.212-3 Offeror Representations and Certifications-Commercial Items which is completed by registering in the System for Award Management (SAM) Website at: https://www.sam.gov/portal/public/SAM/. Quotation must also include contractor name and address, contractor’s DUNS Number, prompt payment terms, and correct remittance address, if different from mailing address.

(xi) The FAR clause 52.212-4 Contract Terms and Conditions-Commercial Items, applies to this acquisition with addendum to the clause are incorporated by reference. The addendum is as follows:

(xii) FAR Clause 52.212-5 Contract Terms and Conditions Required to Implement Statutes or Executive Orders-Commercial Items, applies to this acquisition by reference and proposed subsequent contract as well as the following clauses contained within FAR clause 52.212-5:
52.204-10 Reporting Executive compensation and First-Tier Subcontract Awards;
52.222-19 Child Labor-Cooperation with Authorities and Remedies;
52.222-21 Prohibition of Segregated Facilities;
52.222-50 Combating Trafficking in Persons (Alternate I);
52.223-18 Contractor Policy to Ban Text Messaging with Driving;
52.225-13 Restrictions on Certain Foreign Purchases;
52.232-33 Payment by Electronic Funds Transfer-System for Award Management (SAM) (31 U.S.C. 3332); and
52.233-4 Applicable Law of Breach of Contract Claim

(xiii) Additional FAR provisions and clauses incorporated by reference and applicable to this solicitation and the proposed subsequent contract are:
52.204-12 Data Universal Numbering System Number Maintenance;
52.204-13 System for Award Management Maintenance
52.225-14 Inconsistency Between English Version and Translation of Contract; and
52.252-1 -Solicitation Provisions Incorporated by Reference

This solicitation incorporates one or more solicitation provisions by reference, with the same force and effect as if they were given in full text. Upon request, the Contracting Officer will make their full text available. The offeror is cautioned that the listed provisions may include blocks that must be completed by the offeror and submitted with its quotation or offer. In lieu of submitting the full text of those provisions, the offeror may identify the provision by paragraph identifier and provide the appropriate information with its quotation or offer. Full text of all FAR clauses and provisions are available electronically at the following Internet address: (http://www.arnet.gov/far).

(xiv) A Defense Priorities and Allocations System (DPAS) assigned rating is not applicable to this acquisition.

(xv) Questions must be submitted in writing and only via email to Daniel Schearf at DSCHEARF@VOANEWS.COM. Written questions must be submitted before 12:00 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time on September 5, 2014. Responses to questions will be posted to FedbizOps by close of business on September 9, 2014.

Quotations shall be in writing and must be signed by an official who is authorized to bind the organization. Oral quotations will not be accepted. All offerors must be registered in the System for Award Management (SAM) prior to award (www.sam.gov).

ALL PRICE QUOTATIONS MAY MUST BE SUBMITTED ELECTRONICALLY TO DSCHEARF@VOANEWS.COM OR HANDELIVERED BEFORE THE CLOSING DEADLINE BELOW to Daniel Schearf, Contracting Officer, VOA Moscow Correspondent Bureau, Voice of America, Broadcasting Board of Governors. CLOSING DEADLINE is before 12:00 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time on September 12, 2014.

(xvi) Contact: Daniel Schearf, Contracting Officer, email: DSCHEARF@VOANEWS.COM. All responsible sources may submit a quote that will be considered by the Agency.

Contracting Office Address:
Malaya Dmitrovka 20
5th Floor
Moscow, Russia 127006
Moscow, Non-U.S.
Russian Federation
Place of Performance:
VOA Moscow Bureau
Malaya Dmitrovka 20
5th Floor, Moscow Russia, 127006

Russian Federation
Primary Point of Contact.:
Daniel Schearf,
Contracting Officer
dschearf@voanews.com

The following material is from “Inspection of U.S. International Broadcasting to Russia,” which was prepared by the Office of Inspector General (OIG). The on-site inspection in Moscow for the Voice of America Moscow News Bureau for this report was conducted between April 6 and April 13, 2013. The Voice of America now has a different correspondent in Moscow.

 

Voice of America Moscow News Bureau

The VOA Moscow News Bureau correspondent is often out of his Moscow office covering events in Russia, Central Asia, and other areas of the former Soviet Union. In addition, he may be called upon for coverage elsewhere. His relationship with the one local hire employee on his staff is good. He maintains a close relationship with Embassy Moscow’s public affairs section and with the embassy community in general.

Voice of America Moscow News Bureau

The VOA Moscow News Bureau has one American correspondent (on a Foreign Service limited non-career appointment), two local hires: an office manager and a driver; and a local American resident who was hired using a blanket purchase agreement, an issue discussed in the Management Controls section of this report.

Embassy Moscow provides adequate International Cooperative Administration Support Services (ICASS) to the VOA Moscow News Bureau, including human resources, cashier, security, and health services. The embassy charges VOA appropriately for services provided, but the VOA correspondent acknowledged that he does not always examine the ICASS bill carefully. He said that he was not aware that this was his responsibility. When the inspector brought up this issue to his attention, he contacted the VOA administrative office in Washington and asked for the ICASS bills to be sent to him on a regular basis for verification before payment.

In March 2013, The VOA Moscow News Bureau moved out of its original office and now has some office space in the RFE/RL Russian Service new facility. The VOA Moscow

News Bureau correspondent also has a small studio/office in his apartment. While the sharing of space at the RFE/RL new facility is consistent with BBG’s 5-year strategy of more integration, the two entities have not formalized an agreement related to that space or the kind of support that the VOA Moscow News Bureau will require. VOA officials in Washington and RFE/RL in Moscow did not think an agreement was needed because the space requirements for the VOA Moscow News Bureau were minimal. However, the VOA Moscow News Bureau is a U.S. Government broadcast entity, while RFE/RL is a private, non-profit grantee corporation that receives Federal funding from BBG. A written agreement concerning the space and support services (e.g., parking designation and information technology requirements) to be provided by RFE/RL to the VOA Moscow News Bureau would help ensure that both understand expectations and procedures.

Informal Recommendation 3: The Voice of America should establish a written agreement with Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty that clarifies what services Voice of America Moscow News Bureau should receive as a tenant.

Voice of America Moscow News Bureau

The inspection team found management control weaknesses in the VOA Moscow News Bureau’s administration of contracts, cashier operations, time and attendance, and property management.

Contracting

The VOA Moscow News Bureau correspondent has Level I-Overseas contracting authority, limited to simplified acquisitions not to exceed $50,000 and approved leases not to exceed $50,000. In reviewing contracting files, the inspection team discovered that the correspondent has been using a blanket purchase agreement to acquire the services of an American resident in Moscow to perform a variety of tasks for 40 hours every week. In accordance with Federal Acquisition Regulation 13.303-1, a blanket purchase agreement is a simplified method of filling anticipated repetitive needs for supplies or services by establishing “charge accounts” with qualified sources of supply. If someone is working 40 hours regularly, however, an employer/employee relationship is established. The OIG team counseled the correspondent to consult with VOA Washington on how to use the proper contracting mechanism to get the service of the American resident in Moscow.

The reason for this oversight could be attributed to lack of contracting training. The correspondent obtained his contracting appointment on August 17, 2010, but has not taken any contracting training since then. The January 2006 Office Management and Budget Memorandum for Chief Acquisition Officers and Senior Procurement Executives, and the Office of Federal Procurement Policy Letter 05-91 establish continuous learning requirements for contracting officers. The correspondent was not aware of the training requirement and the OIG team advised him that he was not in compliance with Federal regulations. By taking some refresher contracting courses, the VOA correspondent would ensure that any acquisitions he authorizes comply with government standards.

Recommendation 7: The Voice of America should require that the Moscow News Bureau correspondent take refresher courses in contracting as required by Federal regulations. (Action: VOA)

Financial Management

The IBB chief financial officer and staff oversee the budget of the VOA Moscow News Bureau; the News Bureau’s office manager handles the budget for the office. She was a subcashier of the embassy’s Class B cashier with a page22image13032advance. Most bills received by the office manager are small and paid with petty cash. The inspector noted that there were 10 invoices in the safe that had not been processed or paid, some more than 3 months old. In addition, the inspectors found no records of unannounced cash counts by the embassy Class B cashier. Per the BBG Manual of Administration VII 710, unannounced verifications of a cashier must be conducted monthly, regardless of the advance amount. According to the draft IBB Administrative Manual Title 7, Part 200, Section 206.7 c. (8), the supervisory official is responsible for ensuring cash verifications and audits are performed as required. Neglecting this requirement diminishes internal controls and creates the possibility for potential misuse of cash funds.

Recommendation 8: The Voice of America should require that the Moscow News Bureau conduct and document unannounced cash verifications on a monthly basis. (Action: VOA)

Time and Attendance

The VOA Moscow News Bureau’s timesheets and leave documents were not available for examination by the inspector because they were still stored in boxes following the move into the new RFE/RL office space. It is not clear whether local employees are required to sign in and out daily, nor could the inspector confirm that the correspondent verifies timesheets, signs them, and then sends them to the embassy for processing. According to the BBG Manual of Administration V-B 500, the VOA Moscow News Bureau correspondent should administer a sound time and attendance process. Lack of consistent certification of time and attendance leaves subordinates vulnerable to accusations of unexcused absenteeism. Because both local hires are under the embassy’s local compensation plan, the News Bureau’s time and attendance procedures need to be the same as Embassy Moscow, in accordance with the Foreign Affairs Handbook, 4 FAH-3 H-530.

Recommendation 9: The Voice of America should require the Moscow News Bureau to implement time and attendance procedures in accordance with the Broadcasting Board of Governors Manual of Administration and the Department of State’s regulations. (Action: VOA)

Property Management

VOA Moscow News Bureau’s property management procedures are weak. It is unclear when the last inventory was performed and the information that VOA Washington has on the News Bureau’s inventory is not current. Although VOA equipment and property are properly labeled, most of the correspondent’s VOA-provided household items are not in the inventory records. Some office items appear in VOA Washington inventory that no longer exist; they were either disposed improperly or their disposal was not recorded in accordance with VOA Administrative Guidelines Section 15. This significant deficiency is documented in a 2012 OIG independent auditor’s report.6 Not having an adequate process to update property records may lead to inaccurate reports on the agency financial statements.

Recommendation 10: The Voice of America should require the Moscow News Bureau to finalize a comprehensive inventory of all its property and implement written procedures for keeping accurate inventory and disposition records on an annual basis. (Action: VOA)

Assistance to Address Administrative Weaknesses

The administrative and management control issues described in this report require immediate attention. There are no written administrative guidelines used by News Bureau staff. There was no copy of the VOA Administrative Guidelines in the files. The correspondent is not familiar with VOA administrative procedures and has limited experience in the Federal government. During the course of the inspection, he contacted the VOA London News Bureau and requested assistance in addressing administrative weaknesses. Followup will be critical to bringing the VOA Moscow News Bureau into compliance with Federal regulations, VOA administrative guidelines, and generally-accepted administrative practices.

Recommendation 11: The Voice of America should provide assistance to the VOA Moscow News Bureau in conducting a comprehensive review of its administrative processes and procedures and implementing corrective actions. (Action: VOA)

Official Vehicle

The VOA Moscow News Bureau has an official vehicle that is designated for official business only. The inspector did not find any written guidance on site regarding the use of the vehicle. While it was a former practice to record mileage and annotate the purpose of each trip on the vehicle’s Daily Trip Record form (OF-108), that practice was discontinued without a valid reason. Neither the correspondent nor the driver keeps any record of how the vehicle is used.

Informal Recommendation 5: The Voice of America Moscow News Bureau should use the Daily Vehicle Use Record Form (OF-108) for all trips in the official vehicle.

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