Midwinter’s Day was first celebrated in 1898 by the crew of the Belgica, which spent the winter trapped in ice below the Antarctic Circle. Modern research stations developed their own traditions. Scientists and support staff at the three stations run by the U.S. National Science Foundation take an extra day off, creating a long weekend. Usually they work six days a week. —The Antarctic Sun, 21 June 2004
For those who haven’t heard, someone in Denver has decided that U.S. Antarctic stations this year won’t have the day off for Midwinter’s Day dinner (June 21st).
No big deal.
However, coincidentally, on June 21st, RPSC is sponsoring, for its 250+ employees in the office, a “Summer Picnic” at a Denver-area amusement park called Elitch Gardens, including a picnic and a Randy Travis concert.
Last month, Denver HQ, “in recognition of the conditional acceptance of the Power and Water plant phase 1 by the NSF”, held a lunch catered by Qdoba Mexican Grill, best known for their Hot Naked Burrito Bar.
Also, one of the recent Safety dispatches in Denver concerned “Gardening Safety” ["Rest frequently and relax in the shade with a drink of water."] While one of the recent Safety dispatches in McMurdo concerned “Fatigue” [with symptoms that include: chronic tiredness, dizziness, impaired coordination, reduced immune system function, short term memory problems, and low motivation.]
The larger picture is that, while “budget cuts” is the phrase-of-the-day for justifying arbitrary decisions, a great number of decisions regarding Antarctica are being made by people gardening, riding roller coasters, and eating naked burritos in Denver, while people on the ice are told to watch for symptoms of fatigue while being told to work more on their day off.
The way the company behaves, one might begin to think that the ice is merely a diversion to the real money settling in Denver.
Illustrating such, here are excerpts from an audit of Raytheon Polar Services Company from 2005:
• An invoice from Harry & David’s gourmet was reviewed which disclosed that a tower of chocolates was purchased as a holiday gift from the Program Manager to an unspecified recipient.
• Two (2) charges for Dave and Busters on a pro-card statement with no supporting documentation. The charges were for $998.00 and $972.57. This would have been considered entertainment expense based on FAR 31.205-14.
• The contractor submitted a Lowes Home Improvement receipt with a pro-card statement for air conditioning supplies. The purpose of the purchase was not stated. The documentation is considered insufficient.
• The contractor paid charges on a pro-card statement for various amounts that were not supported and are likely personal purchases. Purchases at Virgin Body Care Inc. which sells herbal, nutritional and food supplement items. Purchases were also made at the Raining Rose which specialize in all natural, handcrafted body care products, soaps, shampoos, lotions, shower gels, and so forth. These costs are considered unallowable based on FAR 31.201-2(d). There was also a charge for a Colorado Restaurant Association membership. The association with the Polar Services contract was not established.
• The contractor submitted invoices related to the rental of tables, chairs, water barrels, and so forth for purposes of a barbeque. The rental equipment was provided by Butler Rents. The barbeque was catered by Franks Barbeque. No purpose was stated. The function was held around the time frame of the 4th of July. The charges were related to the pro-card statement. The credit card statement was approved by management and the amounts appear to be expressly unallowable although no purpose was stated for the costs.
• Several transactions related to the pre-season social to include wine, ice sculptures, quartets, flowers, and so forth were charged direct to the contract. These items while approved by management for reimbursement under the contract are unallowable based on FAR 31.205-13, FAR 31.205-14, and FAR 31-.205.51.
Side note: The traditional winter-over t-shirts have been cut from the budget this year as well.
Here’s another audit of RPSC titled “Survey and Internal Control Assessment Review of the Raytheon Polar Services Company “.
Here are some excerpts:
We found that RPSC’s costs recorded in POFMS do not reconcile to the costs recorded in RPSC’s accounting system, resulting in incorrect reporting to NSF of costs incurred to perform the NSF USAP contract.
Specifically, our audit disclosed that, for the three-year period January 1, 2000 through December 31, 2002, approximately $10.3 million of subcontract costs recorded in POFMS were incorrectly recorded as other direct costs (i.e. travel, training, professional services, etc.) in RPSC’s accounting system.
This misclassification resulted in RPSC overcharging NSF approximately $206,000 of general and administrative indirect costs in their annual final claim for payment.