The Transportation Security Administration “cooked the books” to understate the costs of using federal workers rather than private contractors to screen airport passengers, a key TSA critic in Congress charged Wednesday.
Federal auditors found the agency erred in its cost comparisons, and a skeptical lawmaker said TSA did so to stop the use of private contractors to do screening — an option Congress wrote into the 2001 law that created the agency.
Sixteen airports throughout the country use private screeners under the Security Partnership Program (SPP), but TSA has barred other airports from joining the program.
In a letter to Congress released Wednesday, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) said TSA’s new estimates show that private screeners are just 3 percent more expensive than federal workers - not 17 percent, as the agency previously had stated.
Auditors said that earlier TSA estimates had not accounted for the costs of workers compensation, liability insurance, retirement benefits and administrative overhead involved in using federal employees.
“TSA cooked the books to try to eliminate the federal-private screening program,” said Rep. John L. Mica, Florida Republican and chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. “GAO found that TSA ignored critical data relating to costs.”
The GAO found that TSA’s methods for comparing the cost and performance of private and federal screeners had improved since the auditors’ last report in January 2009, but it is still lacking in important respects.
The flaws “reduced the reliability” of the agency’s cost estimates “by increasing the costs for private-contractor screeners relative to federal screeners,” the auditors wrote.
Mr. Mica said he thinks that if all the costs are tallied fairly, private screeners would prove at least as effective and cheaper than their federal counterparts.
“I am confident that the private sector can not only perform better, but do so at a lower cost to the taxpayers,” he said.
As chairman of the House aviation subcommittee, Mr. Mica was one of the authors of the 2001 Aviation Transportation Security Act, which allowed airports to opt out of using federal screeners and hire private firms to screen passengers under TSA supervision.
In January, TSA Administrator John Pistole announced those applications were being refused and that no other airports would be allowed to participate in SPP unless they could demonstrate a “clear and substantial advantage” in doing so.
Mr. Mica said his staff will continue to investigate the “distortion and misstatement of facts used in the denial of each of these five airports’ participation in the federal-private screening program.”View Entire Story
© Copyright 2013 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
By John Solomon
How the government's punishing of the exposure of official wrongdoing can linger for years
Independent voices from the TWT Communities
A collection of reader guest articles, thoughts and opinions by Communities writers and breaking news and information.
A mother of three and a passionate conservative, Shirley Husar changes the game.
This column will cover anything that has anything remotely to do with the game of baseball, from the game itself to mid-summer trades to offseason moves.
Eye on Europe, the Middle East and Africa
Benghazi: The anatomy of a scandal
Vietnam Memorial adds four names
Cinco de Mayo on the Mall
NRA kicks off annual convention