The General Services Administration’s Federal Acquisition Service allowed IT and telecommunications support contractors to access sensitive data without completed background checks, according to a June 29 memo from the GSA Inspector General.

Contractors were working under the Transition Ordering Assistance task order to help agencies transition onto the Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions contract.

The task order was awarded to Arlington, Virginia-headquartered Redhorse Corp. in September 2016. That task order required that individual contractors receive clearance through, at minimum, a National Agency Check with Written Inquiries.

Some employees, however, had not yet received a favorable determination from the Office of Personnel Management before gaining access to government information and systems.

“As a result, FAS has spent more than $675,000 for work performed by contract employees who had not received the required determinations, thereby placing FAS and its customer agencies at risk,” Sonya Panzo, associate deputy assistant inspector general for auditing, wrote in a memo to the FAS commissioner.

Specifically, one contract employee intentionally withheld background investigation paperwork for personal reasons, though a contracting representative had approved $131,576 in charges for that employee in spite of that lack of a background investigation.

After this incident, the IG reviewed background investigation documents for the employees contracted under the task order and found 15 other employees for whom the contractor had billed a total of $544,053 prior to them receiving a favorable determination.

“Based on our analysis, we are concerned that FAS is relying solely on the TOA contractor to ensure compliance instead of independently verifying that contract employees have received favorable interim determinations,” Panzo wrote.

“FAS is not providing sufficient management oversight to ensure that contract employees assigned to the TOA task order receive the required background investigation determinations.”

The memo recommended that FAS enhance its management controls to ensure that contract employees meet the background investigation provisions provided in the contract.

While FAS generally agreed with the recommendations, it contested the IG’s characterization that it had taken no further action to ensure compliance after December 12, 2017, training and contractor assurance that all employees had received a favorable determination.

FAS Commissioner Alan Thomas noted in a June 8 memo to the IG that it had taken seven actions after the December 12 date to ensure compliance.

The IG memo, however, found that five of those actions had taken place only after a March 2018 issue of noncompliance was brought to FAS attention by the IG.