More government supervision called for on border fence

first_imgWASHINGTON – Construction of a $30 billion U.S.-Mexico border fence came under fire Thursday as congressional investigators questioned whether more government oversight is needed. In what lawmakers called a classic case of foxes guarding the henhouse, 60 percent of those overseeing contractors’ work on the fence are themselves private contractors. And at least one of the firms hired to keep an eye on the project has a potential conflict of interest with Boeing Co., the prime contractor, congressional investigators say. Federal auditors, meanwhile, warn that the project is in danger of becoming badly mismanaged, but U.S. officials said they have few other options. Among the problems, Waxman said, has been a heavy reliance on outsourcing – a model he said the Homeland Security Department is following with the border fence. According to his staff’s investigation, eight of the 13 people who developed the acquisition plan for the fence were private contractors. And 60 of the 98 people assigned to oversee the work are contractors. Meanwhile, investigators found that one company hired to oversee Boeing’s work is Booz Allen Hamilton, a consultant that also has a multiyear contract with Boeing. Boeing and DHS officials maintain that they have taken steps to protect taxpayers. The agency is retaining authority over subcontracting, for example, a lesson learned from the Coast Guard problems. And Republicans said they fear that Democrats are just trying to stop construction on the project. “I am deeply concerned that this is a delaying tactic,” said Rep. Mark Souder, R-Ind. (202) 662-8731160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! “The department currently does not have the capacity to oversee a project like this,” Richard Skinner, inspector general for the Department of Homeland Security, told the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. “There’s more contractors than there are government employees” involved in the fence project, Skinner said. The committee hearing, chaired by Los Angeles Democrat Rep. Henry Waxman, is the third in a series of inquiries held this week on contract waste, fraud and abuse. While most of the examinations have involved Iraq – including $12 billion in reconstruction contracts – Thursday’s hearing focused on two domestic projects that auditors say are riddled with management problems. In addition to the border fence program called SBInet, Waxman also took aim at “Deepwater,” the Coast Guard’s $24 million fleet overhaul that he said has actually cost hundreds of millions of dollars. last_img read more