Sen. Tom Coburn wants to know why DHS awarded a contract to a company accused of fraud involving security clearance investigations. (Rob Curtis/Staff / Federal Times)
The Department of Homeland Security has come under fire from lawmakers for awarding a $190 million contract to a company accused of defrauding the government.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., the ranking member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., the ranking member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, sent a letter July 17 asking why USIS received a contract from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
The Justice Department filed a lawsuit against USIS in January, accusing the company of delivering at least 665,000 background investigations from March 2008 through September 2012 that failed to undergo contractually required initial quality reviews.
The suit seeks damages to be decided at trial, plus at least $5,500 for each fraudulent claim, according to the Justice Department.
The DHS division awarded a new contract to USIS on July 1, 2014, worth up to $190 million to provide field office support services related to the operation of the DHS immigration system, according to the lawmakers in the letter.
“The purpose of our inquiry is to determine whether the department considered this billion-dollar fraud suit against USIS before awarding the company a new government contract worth hundreds of millions of dollars,” Cummings wrote. “If not, we want to know why not, and whether legislative reforms may be necessary.
Federal acquisition regulations require agencies to review the past performance of potential contractors to ensure that they have a “satisfactory performance record” and a “satisfactory record of integrity and business ethics” the lawmakers wrote.
“Our committees have a long history of doing oversight of government contracting, and we have a responsibility to ensure that agencies make responsible, prudent decisions when awarding contracts and spending taxpayer money,” Coburn wrote. “We want to determine how an entity under DOJ investigation could receive such a lucrative contract from the federal government.”
The lawmakers also asked USIS for its acquisition plan, its cost estimates, the proposals issued by all the competing companies and all documents the agency used to make the award by July 21.