US agencies praise Gallup contracting work, contradicting Justice Dept. suit

Matthew Boyle Investigative Reporter
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Documents obtained by The Daily Caller show that several government agencies praised The Gallup Organization for the contract work it did for the federal government — including praise for their cost, effectiveness and service — running counter to charges by Attorney General Eric Holder’s Department of Justice’s that the polling firm defrauded the federal government.

In August, the DOJ signed on to a lawsuit based on 2009 allegations by former Gallup staffer Michael Lindley — who is also a 2008 Obama campaign organizer — after senior Gallup officials didn’t comply with a stern invitation from Obama re-election campaign senior adviser David Axelrod to a White House meeting.

Some perceived Axelrod’s invitation as an attempt to intimidate the firm following its polls showing Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney leading Obama.

The publicly available lawsuit shows that the DOJ is currently basing its allegations entirely on Lindley’s claims. It has also not yet been served on Gallup, preventing the pollster from being able to officially respond to the allegations.

A contract Gallup worked on with the U.S. Mint is one on which the DOJ is backing Lindley’s allegation. In the lawsuit, Lindley — and now the DOJ — allege that Gallup was overcharging the government on a $2 million annual contract “to conduct market research to identify likely purchasers of newly issued coins and how best to reach them.”

“After the government awarded the contract to Gallup, whenever the U.S. Mint needed market research it would forward to Gallup a task order request,” Lindley alleges. “Gallup would then write an abbreviated technical proposal and submit a detailed budget to the U.S. Mint. … The government would rely on this budget detail in order to justify Gallup’s price and assess its cost-reasonableness. Because the contract was a sole source contract, the government had no competing bids against which it could evaluate the reasonableness of Gallup’s pricing or costs, and relied instead on the accuracy of Gallup’s cost and pricing data.”

Lindley charges that Gallup Senior Research Director Sameer Abraham “would submit a proposed budget to the Mint” for each task, and then would “inflate the number of hours required to complete the work, usually by a multiple of two or three times.”

“Meanwhile, Gallup would create an internal budget for the contract in Gallup’s project management system,” Lindley continues. “In this internal budget, Abraham would include a realistic number of hours required to complete the work in the contract, based on historical data. This realistic number would be used by Gallup for purposes of tracking the progress of the contract, and ultimately, determining the gross margin on the contract the number that would be justified by historical experience.”

But the U.S. Mint saw in a different light the contract work Gallup was performing. According to comments in an internal “Contractor Performance Assessment Report” (CPAR), the Mint said Gallup “earned an outstanding rating for the services they provided or the duration of this contract. The contractor went above and beyond expectations in all areas.”

The CPAR report also praises Gallup for cost control with regard to the contract.
“There were no cost management issues associated with the contract,” the Mint said of Gallup’s work. “The contractor did their best to achieve cost savings — especially given the levels of demand and complexity of many research projects.”

The Mint also said Gallup “exceeded expectations in timeliness of performance.”

Another contract on which Lindley alleges Gallup defrauded the government was a contract with the Department of State’s U.S. Passport Agency.

“Gallup has provided services to the U.S. Passport Agency under a contract worth $2,700,000, and in May 2009 entered into negotiations with that agency for a five-year sole source contract worth $25,000,000,” Lindley says. “The contract required the contractor to conduct large nationwide surveys to be used in predicting the increase in the number of passport applications that would result from changes in border laws governing travel by United States citizens across the Mexican and Canadian borders. The Passport Agency asked Gallup to submit a justification for issuing a sole source contract, along with detailed pricing information that would be used to justify a contract price.”

Lindley alleges that, “under Abraham’s direction” during those negotiations, “Gallup submitted detailed budgets with vastly inflated hours.”

“For internal budgeting and compensation purposes, however, Abraham provided Gallup with realistic — and far lower — estimates of the hours required to complete the tasks,” Lindley adds in his complaint.

But an internal email from Passport Agency contracting officer La Shawn Clark shows an agency view that differs dramatically from the DOJ’s.

“Your team provided excellent customer service and cooperation,” Clark wrote to Abraham and fellow Gallup official Dawn Royal. “Also your team produced consistent satisfactory output and work on targeted deadlines. It was a pleasure working with the Gallup Government team.”

Other contracts Gallup completed for the federal government, and in which Lindley alleges malfeasance, include work the polling company did for the military and for the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA).

Despite Lindley’s allegations of wrongdoing, internal evaluations show that the Army Joint Contract Command’s contracting officials thought the pollster did “exemplary” work. “They have exceeded all government expectations,” that review reads in part. “This is a highly professional contractor with an impeccable reputation.”

On other Gallup military contracts, internal evaluations show similarly high praise.

An internal FEMA evaluation shows that the agency “couldn’t be more pleased with the work deliverables or qualifications of the team and the work they produced.”

On “cost control,” FEMA said Gallup is “very conscientious in how they expend government resources.”

“As a testament to Gallup’s cost control and effectiveness in maximizing resources, we were able to fund more work/deliverables beyond the original scope, to include developing and offering a train-the-trainer session, which produced an unquestionably better overall product for FEMA,” the internal FEMA review reads.

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