WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill, the top-ranking Democrat on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, is calling for answers after a recent Department of Homeland Security Inspector General report highlighted problems with the agency’s Suspension and Debarment Program. The program is tasked with penalizing contractors—which can include barring them from future government contracts—that engaged in waste, fraud, or abuse on previous projects.
“It’s unacceptable that the Department of Homeland Security has dropped the ball on holding accountable contractors who’ve wasted Missourians’ taxpayer dollars,” said McCaskill, a former Missouri State Auditor. “When companies engage in egregious conduct, they’re supposed to lose their ability get additional government contracts—but that’s not how it’s working far too often.”
A Department of Homeland Security Inspector General report released earlier this year identified numerous deficiencies in the agency’s Suspension and Debarment Program, including that the head of the program ignored a recommendation for a contractor debarment and more broadly, inadequate tracking of suspended and debarred companies. “I am particularly troubled that DHS appears to neglect the suspension and debarment process, one of the most important tools that the government has to hold contractors accountable,” McCaskill wrote in a letter to the Department of Homeland Security. “The absence of coordination between components and headquarters to provide accurate information to contracting officials, and other government agencies puts the government at serious risk for waste, fraud, and abuse.”
McCaskill also raised recent failures in the Department of Homeland Security’s contracting: “At a Committee roundtable on February 7, 2018, I asked you about the Department’s Suspension and Debarment Program. Specifically, I noted that a company that had previously defaulted on multiple federal government contracts nevertheless continued to contract with the government—including receiving a $156 million award from FEMA to provide 30 million meals in Puerto Rico, which was terminated after it delivered only 50,000.” McCaskill requested answers by April 5th on the current status of suspended or debarred contractors at the Department of Homeland Security and how the agency will improve its process for holding contractors accountable.
Since her time as Missouri State Auditor, McCaskill has been a leading voice in Missouri and Washington for cutting wasteful government spending, and she has repeatedly held agencies accountable for contracts rife with waste, fraud, and abuse. Since becoming the top-ranking Democrat on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee last year, McCaskill has called for answers on questionable government contracts, such as the State Department routinely paying a contractor to oversee foreign assistance programs in Iraq without properly verifying the contractor’s claimed costs and expenses and FEMA awarding more than $30 million in contracts to an inexperienced, new company. McCaskill introduced a bipartisan bill to reform government contracting by requiring better oversight of so-called ‘bridge contracts,’ in which a government agency renews an expired contract for a short period of time without having a competitive bid process. During her first term in the Senate, McCaskill waged a successful six-year effort to crack down on waste, fraud, and abuse in wartime contracting.
Read McCaskill’s letter to the Department of Homeland Security HERE.