- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 17, 2014

Two top lawmakers demanded Thursday that Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson explain why one of his federal agencies signed a contract for up to $190 million with a background check company the government is already targeting for fraud.

Rep. Elijah Cummings, Maryland Democrat, and Sen. Tom Coburn, Oklahoma Republican, questioned the contract U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services awarded to USIS, even as the company is fighting a civil lawsuit filed by the Justice Department accusing the firm of falsely claiming it had finished background investigations.

Mr. Cummings, ranking member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and Mr. Coburn, ranking member of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, said Mr. Johnson must answer why USCIS deemed USIS to be “low risk” despite the Justice Department lawsuit.

“Since the Department of Justice filed this fraud case against USIS in January, we request your assistance in understanding the process used by your department when making this award to USIS,” the lawmakers wrote to Mr. Johnson.

They asked for copies of the acquisition plan, cost estimate, final request for proposals and other records.

Meanwhile, Mr. Cummings has also pushed his Republican counterpart — Rep. Darrell Issa, California Republican and chairman of the House oversight panel — to have congressional investigators interview USIS’s chief executive.

Mr. Cummings has said the company refuses to answer questions about its executive compensation and bonus practices during the time when the Justice Department said USIS was engaged in fraud.

In a statement after the Justice Department lawsuit, USIS has said the alleged fraud involved a small group of individuals and that the company has new management.

When the Times reported on Mr. Cummings‘ difficulties getting answers about USIS executive bonuses, the company did not specifically say why it hasn’t provided the information.

A statement from the company to The Times said USIS “has been very responsive to the [oversight] 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.”