- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 10, 2014

A Republican senator is criticizing the latest federal contract to a government background check firm accused of fraud that also has faced scrutiny over its role in the vetting of Edward Snowden and Navy Yard shooter Aaron Alexis.

Sen. Tom Coburn, Oklahoma Republican, called the hiring of contractor USIS by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for $190 million “troubling” because the agency deemed the company low risk despite what the lawmaker views as red flags.

Mr. Coburn called the low-risk designation “ludicrous” because it came weeks after a finding by the Office of Personnel Management’s inspector general that one USIS case reviewer completed an improbably 15,152 cases in a single month — a workload that would require signing off on cases around the clock every few minutes.

He also cited a pending Justice Department complaint accusing the company of fraud and questions about USIS‘ work conducting background checks into Snowden and Alexis.

“The fact that a company can commit so many mistakes, including ones that jeopardize national security, and be rewarded for their incompetence at a high price tells us yet again that our contracting system is broken,” he said.

The Wall Street Journal first reported on the $190 million contract award on July 2.

USIS declined to comment Thursday, but has previously stated that it has new management, enhanced oversight procedures and that the fraud accusations filed by the Justice Department related to a “small group of individuals.”

Meanwhile, a key Democratic House member, Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, ranking member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, is pushing for congressional investigators to interview the chief executive of USIS over unanswered questions about the company’s executive bonus practices.

In a letter last month to Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, California Republican, Mr. Cummings said the firm’s president has refused to answer questions about bonuses paid to company executives at a time when the Justice Department says USIS was engaged in fraud.

In a statement to The Washington Times last month, a USIS spokesman did not address why the company has refused to answer Mr. Cumming’s questions, but added the firm has cooperated with several inquiries, providing interviews and documents.

“The company has been very responsive to the … Committee, including engaging in open discussions in-person with committee members and staffers, responding to numerous written requests, and providing thousands of pages of materials related to our business and the background investigations process,” USIS said in a statement.