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What’s with the shrinking Corporate Scheduling Announcement List (CSAL)?

The CSAL is a “courtesy notification” that the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) makes available to provide federal contractors “at least 45-days advance notice to prepare for the compliance review; and [to] encourage contractors to take advantage of OFCCP compliance assistance offering”.

2019 saw OFCCP give federal contractors advance notice of 4,000 compliance reviews. This included 500 Section 503 and 500 VEVRAA focused reviews, intended as streamlined audits, and 500 of the truly streamlined compliance checks.

It appears that it took the Agency longer to plow through the focused reviews than it anticipated. Mandatory on-sites proved time-consuming, even when COVID forced virtual meetings. The complex internal report that Compliance Officers fill out for focused reviews also appears to have slowed things down. The Agency is just now finishing up the audits on its 2019 list.

In 2020, the OFCCP issued CSALs noting 2,250 reviews. This March, however, Director Yang removed the focused reviews and ‘supply and service’ compliance checks from this queue. This leaves only 700 establishments for review. (Construction compliance reviews were not affected.)

The 2021 CSAL released earlier this month notes only 750 audits. It includes no focused reviews or compliance checks.

Why are the CSALS getting smaller and smaller?

Over the last ten years, the OFCCP’s staff has decreased by more 40% and its budget has been stagnant. The Biden administration proposes increasing OFCCP’s headcount by 188 and its budget by a third, from $105M to $140M. The House of Representatives approved this budget on July 9. It may be prudent for the Agency not to bite off more than it can chew by issuing a large 2021 CSAL.

Still, something more than budget and headcount may be at issue. Perhaps the past is about to repeat itself.

In 2003, a Republican administration adopted an ‘Active Case Management’ process employing an abbreviated form of desk audit that closed most reviews quickly. In 2010, under Obama, the Agency switched to ‘Active Case Enforcement’ which, in effect, meant full review for every audit. Under Director Leen, the Agency, once again in Republican control, jettisoned Active Case Enforcement in favor of a mix of standard ‘supply and service’ audits, focused reviews and compliance reviews. The Agency now appears to be shifting, as Democratic administrations tend to do, back to full audits. In its 2022 budget statement, the OFCCP justifies removing the expedited review types from the 2020 CSAL as follows: “This change allowed OFCCP to strategically allocate its limited resources on comprehensive compliance evaluations” (emphasis added). The OFCCP’s use of the word “comprehensive” speaks volumes. Full audits, all the time?

It is still very early in the current administration. The OFCCP’s path may not yet be set. Some form of focused review could make a comeback, and perhaps should, minus onsite, with less data, and more emphasis on the effectiveness of federal contractors’ programs in addressing underrepresentation. There is, as always, a win-win available.

By the end of the Obama administration, federal contractors were concerned about what in many instances were felt to be overly-long audits in which the OFCCP lost itself in detail. Let’s hope that this past is not about to repeat.

Kudos to the OFCCP for continuing to publish CSALs as a courtesy to contractors. CSALs give contractors a great ‘leg up’ on getting ready for audit. Once again, the Agency states it will not send a scheduling letter until 45 days after the CSAL was published (July 1, 2021). This too is appreciated.

Watch out for Circa’s upcoming blog on getting ready for your upcoming audit. (If your employer is not on the 2021 CSAL, use the blog’s pointers to help meet your program’s mandatory self-assessment requirements.)

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