DHS to review $8 million in unpaid security contract invoices

The head of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement bureau announced Tuesday that the agency will reform a "chaotic" invoicing system that has left the government nearly $8 million in debt to private security contractors.

ICE owes the money to about 21 contract guard vendors, said Julie Myers, the agency's assistant secretary. The agency plans to review its entire backlog of unpaid invoices by Aug. 3, and to pay any debts the week after that, she said. Myers said most of the payment problems arose with older contracts for guards hired in the Washington, D.C., area.

Myers said ICE already had centralized its invoicing system, resolved some of its outstanding debts and appointed an ombudsman to oversee invoices and "liaison with contractors." The agency hopes to prevent future problems through training that will enforce a "customer service mentality" among federal agents who handle invoices, she said.

The announcement came on the heels of several congressional hearings about contract guards, and a week after several capital area guards walked out of the job because they hadn't been paid.

At Tuesday's press conference on the reforms, Robert Jenkins, owner of Washington, D.C.-based Jenkins Security Consultants, downplayed news of the walkout, saying "I don't like to talk about these things." He said the company resorted to emergency staffing to maintain security during the walkout.

Jenkins lauded the government for addressing the problem. "We are beginning to get some action," he said. "Back invoices are being taken care of."

But the head of another company said the government had not made enough progress. Keith Howard, who owned Area-Wide Electronic Solutions Inc. in Maryland, also attended the press conference as a spectator. At the end, he stood up and claimed that his business was driven into bankruptcy because the government did not pay him money it owed him.

"I am devastated," Howard said. "I am asking for your help." Myers said the situation would be taken care of.

Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., who co-hosted the conference, lauded ICE's actions. "Small businesses go out of business all the time," Norton said. "Our job is to make sure they don't go out of business at the fault of the federal government."

She also announced that she will file a bill prohibiting the Federal Protective Service -- the arm of ICE responsible for securing government facilities -- from contracting with guard companies owned or controlled by people with felony convictions.

Holmes' bill addresses security concerns that arose when FPS contracted with Systems Training and Research Technologies (STARTECH), a guard service whose vice president for business development, Weldon Waites, had been convicted of money laundering and fraud. Witnesses at a hearing in late June said Waites' financial mismanagement kept the company from making payroll. The government has since terminated its contract with STARTECH.

"This was a loophole in existing law," Norton said. "We just gotta close the loophole, and that will take care of the future."

Norton said that contracting with businesses whose managers have a history of ethics violations could put the nation's security at risk and increase payroll problems at poorly managed businesses. She said ICE's reforms combined with her bill would bring about fairness for security contractors.

Contract security guards Norton said, "are as essential to protecting federal employees and sites as members of the FPS."

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

    Download
  • The Big Data Campaign Trail

    With everyone so focused on security following recent breaches at federal, state and local government and education institutions, there has been little emphasis on the need for better operations. This report breaks down some of the biggest operational challenges in IT management and provides insight into how agencies and leaders can successfully solve some of the biggest lingering government IT issues.

    Download
  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

    Download
  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

    Download
  • Ongoing Efforts in Veterans Health Care Modernization

    This report discusses the current state of veterans health care

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.