- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 30, 2007

The company awarded a $25.4 million government contract for transportation services around the capital is not licensed to operate in the D.C. area — which should make it ineligible for the work.

Transcom Inc. of Germantown received the largest of three contracts from the Department of Homeland Security, but it has no license from the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Commission and has been fined for operating without one, according to legal documents and a letter from a Republican lawmaker.

Affidavits from two employees reviewed by United Press International also claim the company is not paying its staff in line with federal contract requirements.

Another company awarded a $3.9 million contract, U.S. Trans Logistics Inc., “has a prior history of poor performance as a government contractor, and was recently replaced on a contract to provide similar services to the State Department,” Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett, Maryland Republican, wrote in a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff.

Neither company responded to requests for comment.

The previous contractor, Alexandria-based Shirlington Limousine and Taxi, was the only qualified bidder for the job in 2004. The contract was part of the Historically Under-utilized Business Zone, or Hub Zone, program, which provides federal contracting opportunities for small businesses in economically disadvantaged neighborhoods.

Shirlington ran shuttle bus services between office sites in the D.C. area where Homeland Security staff worked, and provided drivers for the sedans used by senior officials. The contract eventually grew to a $4 million-a-year business.

But Shirlington, and its owner Chris Baker, came under scrutiny in April 2006 after the firm was reported to have driven prostitutes to parties thrown by corrupt defense contractors.

The contract was rebid in a revised form this year after hearings by the House Homeland Security Committee, which criticized the department’s procurement staff and procedures. Shirlington entered a bid, which was disqualified, and it lost the contract to Transcom, U.S. Trans Logistics, and a third company, RHG Group Inc.

House Homeland Security Chairman Rep. Bennie Thompson, criticized the department for its bidding process.

“This committee has repeatedly told the department that it must conduct due diligence,” the Mississippi Democrat told UPI. If officials “unwittingly awarded a contract to a company that was fired for a history of documented poor performance or knowingly awarded a contract to such a company, the department has once again failed to ask the right questions and wait for the correct answers.”

However, a spokesman from the department said it followed the correct procedures in awarding the bids.

“We considered all of the appropriate factors in our evaluation and found no reason that would preclude the award of the contracts,” spokesman Larry Orluskie said.

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