Waiting for the Call

A call centre staffed 24/7 taking 2 calls a day.
Welcome to the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Inspector General report into the review of actions supporting the Veteran Employment Service Office (VESO).

Formerly the Veteran Employment Coordination Service, VESO was established in July 2011 with a new program mission to increase VA’s veteran employment by recruiting, retaining, and reintegrating qualified veterans. VA’s goal is to increase VA’s veteran employment to 40 percent by FY 2014.

VESO acquisitions represent a significant portion of VESO’s budget. VESO operations are supplemented through an interagency agreement (IA) with the Office of Personnel Management (OPM). The IA was initiated in September 2010 and has a total potential value of $150 million. Under this IA, OPM has contracted Serco Services, Inc. (Serco) to provide veterans employment programs, including two veteran employment call centers and design of a veteran employment Web site.

To summarise the report, VESO expanded to have two veteran employment call centers operating 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

These call centers had call volumes so low during a 13-month period that call center employees each handled an average of 2.4 calls per day. A veteran employment Web site was also developed and maintained for VESO, which duplicated key components of existing veteran employment Web sites.

The Inspector General found that VESO awarded a $4.4 million 1-year contract to acquire human resource support services that duplicated VESO’s own internal capabilities and contracted for certain inherently governmental functions.

These costly and excess acquisitions occurred because VESO was not required to conduct a thorough analysis to justify the need for the acquired support services.

In part the reason this report gets the Report of the Week is the wonderful headline within the report “Veteran Call Volume Over-Stated by More Than 1,000 Percent”.

On a more serious note this report neatly summaries three common failings when a contracting firm is used to support a service offering to a customer:

  • VESO did not analyze veteran use of and demand for call center services before the terms of the IA were changed to expand services to provide 24/7 call centers. VESO did not routinely request or receive complete call volume data or data on the length of calls from Serco.
  • VESO did not have a quality assurance surveillance plan to monitor contractor performance since FY 2010.
  • VESO did not establish metrics or require Serco to routinely report data that would allow it to measure call center performance.

All very common mistakes but if McLeod Governance had a dollar for every time that they have seen similar competency challenges.

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