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Project on Government Oversight

POGO Testifies on Wasteful Homeland Security Spending

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September 17, 2008

The Project On Government Oversight (POGO) testified today before the House Committee on Homeland Security's Subcommittee on Management, Investigations, and Oversight at a hearing titled "Waste, Abuse, & Mismanagement: Calculating the Cost of DHS Failed Contracts."

The Subcommittee has calculated approximately $15 billion worth of waste in 11 Department of Homeland Security (DHS) programs.  Even that figure "illustrates a mere fraction of the costs, which can never be recouped, of homeland security contracts that receive a failing grade," the Subcommittee's announcement stated.

"DHS had plenty of time to learn to crawl and it should be up running," said POGO's General Counsel Scott Amey.  "The agency continues to waste money and some of its missteps have been around for years – bad planning and poor contract management and oversight. As we have seen from past natural disasters, DHS's missteps cost taxpayers, and sometimes lives."

POGO's testimony focused on the long-term management and contracting errors of the agency and other silent costs of failed contracting, including awarding contracts to non-responsible contractors, and concerns with DHS's revolving door.

POGO highlighted the following government-wide contracting problems, which will hopefully be considered by Congress:

Cozy Negotiations - To make every effort to get the best value for the taxpayer, the government must promote aggressive arm's-length negotiations with contractors.

Inadequate Competition - To better evaluate goods and services and get the best value, the government must encourage genuine competition so that it can correct the trend of entering into non-competitive contracts in 40 percent of federal purchases.

Lack of Accountability - To ensure that taxpayer dollars are being spent responsibly, the government must regularly monitor and audit contracts after they are awarded.

Lack of Transparency - To regain public faith in the contracting system, the government must ensure that the contracting process is open to the public, including contractor data and contracting officers' decisions and justifications.

Risky Contracting Vehicles - To prevent abuse, the government must ensure that risky contract types that have been abused in the past (including performance-based contracts, interagency contracts, "task and delivery orders," also known as Indefinite Delivery/Indefinite Quantity (ID/IQ) contracts, multiple award and government-wide acquisition contracts (GWACs), time & material contracts, purchase card transactions, commercial item purchases, and other transaction authority) are only used in limited circumstances and are accompanied by audit and oversight controls.

Founded in 1981, the Project On Government Oversight (POGO) is a nonpartisan independent watchdog that champions good government reforms. POGO’s investigations into corruption, misconduct, and conflicts of interest achieve a more effective, accountable, open, and ethical federal government.

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