Explain a Contractors Estimation and Accounting System
A contractors accounting system consists of the methods and records used to identify, assemble, analyze, classify, record, and report a contractors transactions, assets, and liabilities (Defense Contract Management Agency (DCMA), 2019). Conversely, a contractors cost estimation system refers to the policies, practices, and procedures for generating cost data and other data included in cost proposals that are submitted to the government in the expectation of obtaining contract awards (DCMA, 2019). An adequate cost estimation system should maintain a consistent approach, utilize sound estimation techniques, make use of appropriate source data, and follow established procedures as per the federal acquisition regulations (FAR) (DCMA, 2019). A good accounting system needs to be well-designed to prevent mistakes and provide reliable accounting data (DCMA, 2019). The adequacy of a contractors accounting and cost estimation systems determines whether or not they receive a contract offer. This research paper seeks to determine what the literature identifies as the primary characteristics of an adequate accounting and estimation system.
Background to the Study
The requirements for effective cost estimation and accounting systems for government contractors are covered in the Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR). FAR 15.407-5 acknowledges that acceptable contractor cost estimation systems benefit both the contractor and the government by increasing the reliability and accuracy of individual proposals. For this reason, contractors are required to subject their cost estimation systems to regular audit reviews geared at assessing their reliability. The auditor is to record results of such reviews in a report that also indicates deficiencies and corrective action. Significant deficiencies not corrected by the contractor are a consideration in subsequent proposal negotiations for government contracts. Similarly, the need for an adequate cost accounting system is emphasized in FAR 31.201-1. This provision requires the contractor to accurately capture all direct and indirect costs...
The FAR provisions point to the importance of maintaining an adequate cost estimation and accounting system, thereby providing a rationale for this study.
Factors Influencing Accuracy of Cost Estimates
Researchers have carried out multiple studies to identify the factors influencing the adequacy of project cost estimation and accounting systems. Although studies focused specifically on government contractors are limited, a lot of literature is available on cost estimation and accounting in projects generally. In one such study, Hatamleh et al. (2017) distributed a questionnaire to 265 construction project managers to identify the factors that influence the accuracy of cost estimation systems. The study findings showed that the accuracy of cost estimation systems is influenced by several factors including: past pricing experiences, project complexity, how well the scope of the project is defined, the accuracy and reliability of cost information, the cost estimation techniques adopted, and availability of historical data (Hatamleh et al., 2017). Another study conducted by Arif et al. (2015) to analyze the factors influencing the accuracy of cost estimates in construction projects found that that obtaining timely input from subcontractors as well as material manufacturers and suppliers significantly helped to increase the accuracy of cost estimates.
Factors Influencing Quality of Accounting Systems
The accuracy of cost estimates largely depends on the effectiveness of the accounting system (DCMA, 2019). The Defense Procurement and Acquisition Policy (DPAP) identifies several qualities of a good accounting system including: alignment with generally accepted accounting principles applicable to the contractor, proper segregation of direct and indirect costs, a logical and consistent method of allocating indirect costs to cost objectives, exclusion from costs charged to government contracts of amounts not allowable under FAR Part 31, allowing for progress payments, and segregation of preproduction and production costs (DPAP, n.d.). The aspect of segregation of direct and indirect costs is further emphasized in a study by Fitrios (2016), which sought to identify the factors affecting the quality of accounting information from 42 Indonesian hospitals.
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