Senators Demand that Justice Department Guard Against Contractors with Criminal Histories

According to a new report from its Inspector General, the Department of Justice has failed to take the necessary precautions to stop contractors with criminal histories from receiving federally funded work.

The report indicates that the Bureau of Justice Assistance has not properly maintained its databases thus allowing bids to go to contractors who have been convicted of fraud and other crimes such as drug trafficking. Senators Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) and Susan Collins (R- ME), the chairman and ranking member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, respectively, have sent a letter to Attorney General demanding solutions to the problem. According to their letter:

“When Congress establishes a bright line test for keeping taxpayer dollars out of the hands of those who have demonstrated their untrustworthiness, it is unacceptable for money to continue to flow those who have been convicted,” the lawmakers wrote. “The failure of the department to meet its responsibility to ensure eligible cases for statutory suspension and debarment are timely and accurately reported could potentially result in millions of dollars of federal funds being inappropriately awarded to ineligible individuals or companies.”

Along with a lack of compliance from U.S. attorneys, the report shows there is hardly an organizational plan in place to combat the problem. Even when information did come into the BJA, it was often not entered into the proper databases because U.S. attorneys had sent incomplete files:

“The [internal] database or the EPLS creates the potential that DoD contract funds or federal benefits could be awarded to ineligible individuals,” the IG stated. “We identified records that had been entered into the [internal] database or the EPLS, but not both. We also found cases that did not qualify for exclusion yet were entered into the EPLS, creating the potential for these individuals to be improperly denied federal benefits. Finally, we reviewed source documentation for cases entered into the [internal] database and found that data was not always accurately or completely entered into that database.”

The letter from Lieberman and Collins demanded a timeline and a plan of action for how AG Holder would go about implementing the 21 recommendations from the IG report. They set a timeline of August 6th (today) for response:

By what date will you have a detailed corrective action plan with time-specific milestones for correcting each of the findings identified in the IG’s report?

By what date will you or your designee be available to begin monthly briefings for committee staff on this corrective action plan and progress the department is making in implementing the plan?

The report found that 6 of the 7 offices visited by the Inspector General were not aware of their obligations to update procurement databases.

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