In response to a congressional request, the GAO reviewed the Department of the Interior's policies and practices for acquiring geophysical data which are important to the Minerals Management Service (MMS) in its evaluation of the petroleum potential of offshore lands.
Companies which conduct exploration and development of offshore oil and gas are required to provide geophysical data to Interior upon request, and Interior pays companies for the reasonable costs of processing and reproducing, but not for acquiring, such data. The GAO found that, in 2 of the 95 contracts which MMS issued for acquiring geophysical data from 1981 through 1983, MMS paid companies for acquisition costs which were not allowed by the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act Amendments or Interior regulations.
The GAO also found that MMS paid widely varying prices for similarly processed geophysical data and could not explain the variations. Although MMS adopted the Federal Procurement Regulations as a basis for contracting for geophysical data, it did not always follow them. For example, contracting officers often did not require cost or pricing information and rarely requested audits of proposed contracts. The GAO also found that contracting officers did not separately identify acquisition and processing costs as required by regulations. Implementation of a new policy and procedures memorandum may help ensure that payments for data are reasonable and comply with applicable regulations; however, the memorandum does not provide guidance in paying reproduction costs.