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Project on Government Oversight

U.S.A.'s Poor Contract Oversight Fuels Human Trafficking in War Zones

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November 2, 2011

The U.S. is inadvertently financing human trafficking and worker abuse because of the federal government’s poor oversight of contractors operating in war zones, the Project On Government Oversight (POGO) told a congressional panel today.

Federal contracting regulations rely on self-policing and reporting to contracting officers, which has not been proven to be an effective way to monitor trafficking, POGO Director of Investigations Nick Schwellenbach told a subcommittee of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

Although the Department of Defense has made some improvements in combatting trafficking, there is still a notable lack of criminal enforcement. In the few investigations that have been conducted into alleged contractor involvement in human trafficking in war zones, some of the people making allegations were never even interviewed, Schwellenbach told the Subcommittee on Technology, Information Policy, Intergovernmental Relations and Procurement Reform.

“The lack of oversight of federal contractors has led to taxpayer dollars funding these terrible crimes,” Schwellenbach said. “The U.S. has a moral and legal obligation to do everything it can to protect its contracted workforce in war zones.”

Schwellenbach made a variety of recommendations on combating labor and trafficking in contingency operations. For example, contracts need to have a mandatory trafficking-in-persons clause that outlines the U.S. government’s “zero tolerance” policy—many currently do not, according to audits.  Suspension and debarments should be used more often to protect the interest of the U.S. government. Finally, contractor and subcontractor sites should have posters with an anti-trafficking hotline, and contingency contractors should receive performance incentives to end trafficking by their subcontractors and labor brokers.

Follow the link to read Schwellenbach’s testimony.

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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