Investigators to launch series of FEMA probes

The Federal Emergency Management Agency will be the focus of a series of Homeland Security Department inspector general investigations this fiscal year, according to a new report previewing the auditors' upcoming projects.

The DHS inspector general is looking into claims that FEMA officials "did not properly consider small- and minority-owned businesses" for some contracts and that the agency "intends to destroy documentation supporting unsuccessful bids," the report stated.

The agency has denied these allegations. "FEMA -- as any federal agency [is] -- is beholden to the federal procurement guidelines," said Aaron Walker, a spokesman. The agency, he added, is "constantly are checking to make sure we're in compliance."

FEMA's spending, including that in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, also will be subject to further investigation.

The report also details investigations of other DHS agencies. For example, inspectors plan to review how well the Federal Protective Service checks the backgrounds of thousands of contract security guards.

A separate investigation -- performed jointly with the General Services Administration's inspector general - will look at how well DHS and GSA have performed their building protection responsibilities, as clarified in a June 2006 agreement. The Federal Protective Service was housed within GSA until the 2003 formation of DHS.

The Homeland Security IG also is investigating the Customs and Border Protection agency's spending of $71 million on about 2,700 untrained dogs, which translates into a cost of $26,000 per dog.

"A casual search" revealed that untrained dogs cost about $1,000 each and fully trained dogs can cost as little as $6,000, the report said. Now, the IG is reviewing whether the seven vendors selected to provide dogs had federal and breeders' licenses and is assessing CBP's intended uses for the dogs.

The inspectors announced in the report that they will follow up this year on September 2004 recommendations to see how well CBP can detect uranium at ports of entry. Other reports to be completed this year will investigate the bureau's background check procedures for new hires, and how well the agency is recruiting new border agents.

The Immigration and Customs Enforcement bureau also will be subject to investigations, with one looking into how illegal immigrants are treated at detention centers and another reviewing how effectively ICE tracks them once apprehended.

The IG reported that the fiscal 2007 budget for the office is more than 11 percent short of what President Bush requested, but that it can transfer $13.5 million from DHS' Disaster Relief Fund - which the inspector general also will investigate this year.

Still other reviews by the DHS inspectors will delve into areas of fiscal management; regional grants distribution; border, transit and airport security; and internal information safeguards. The inspector general also will probe Shirlington Limousine and Transport Inc. to see if it was a "responsible bidder" for contracts it received in 2004 and 2005.

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