TSA oversight of “other transaction agreements” has improved since 2012, GAO review finds

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) awarded at least 1,039 other transaction agreements (OTA), obligated at least $1.4 billion of them during fiscal years 2012 through 2016.

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OTAs are not contracts or grants and are not subject to certain federal contract laws and requirements. They are used to reimburse law enforcement agencies and airports for the costs of TSA security programs.

The TSA was given the ability to use OTAs from Congress. OTAs help the TSA operate by having reduced accountability and transparency.

Many of the OTAs were used to reimburse the cost of providing canines for explosives detection and the costs of installing, updating, or replacing checked baggage screening systems.

The TSA used various methods to determine reimbursement costs. Independent government cost estimates with contractor bids were used for complex design and construction projects.

The “TSA has taken action to address prior lapses in oversight, resulting in improved compliance,” the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) said. “In 2015, TSA identified significant gaps in OTA file documentation and data reported in the Federal Procurement Data System-Next Generation. TSA took action to address these deficiencies by (1) updating its policy, (2) requiring additional training for contracting officers, (3) instituting monthly data verification, and (4) monitoring compliance through quarterly reviews.”