Bad Watchdog Season 2 launches June 20.

Holding the Government Accountable

Sick DOE Workers Exploited by Contractors

In 2003, POGO detailed how a contractor, Science & Engineering Associates (now Apogen Technologies), used its political connections in an attempt to retain a government contract. That contract administered a program compensating former nuclear weapons workers with illnesses that could be linked to exposure to toxic substances while employed at a DOE facility. Now run by the Department of Labor, the troubled program started under DOE's watch.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report (pdf) that details $26.4 million in improper and questionable payments, including:

[B]illings of employees in labor categories for which they were not qualified or that did not reflect the duties they actually performed, the inappropriate use of fully burdened labor rates for subcontracted labor, add-on charges to other direct costs and base fees that were not in accordance with contract terms, and various other direct costs that were improperly paid.

The GAO also found that "certain payments toward the end of the program for furniture and computer equipment may not have been an efficient use of government funds." Those "improper and questionable payments for contract costs represent nearly 30 percent of the $92 million in total program funds spent through September 30, 2005."

The silver lining for sick workers is that the DOL is processing claims and paying claimants, albeit at a slow and questionable rate. The bad news for taxpayers is that the contracting problems identified by the GAO are similar to those with Iraq and Katrina contracts, and the government isn't adequately protecting the $329 billion it spends each year on goods and services.

If you missed it, check out the CBS News article and video about workers who are struggling to get paid under the program.