- The Washington Times - Monday, September 15, 2014

The ranking Democrat on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee said Monday that he wants to subpoena the head of a troubled government background check contractor to explain how they can continue to win government work after having been accused of fraud by the Justice Department.

Rep. Elijah Cummings, Maryland Democrat, told committee Chairman Darrell Issa in a letter Monday that a weakness in federal contracting law has allowed USIS Inc. to bid for contracts under multiple subsidiary identification numbers, circumventing a rule that requires contractors to have a “satisfactory performance” record.

“As a result, it appears that USIS is able to continue obtaining federal contracts under the current procurement system … despite the fact that the Justice Department has implicated the company’s entire upper management in a massive fraud scheme, and despite the fact that virtually nothing is known about the role of USIS parent companies in this scheme,” Mr. Cummings wrote.

USIS, which was involved in background checks for former government contractor Edward Snowden and Navy Yard shooter Aaron Alexis, was fired last week by the Office of Personnel Management. But the company still holds contracts with other federal agencies.

Mr. Cummings‘ letter adds to the increasing criticism from Capitol Hill from both parties about the company, which has responded with aggressive push to counter what it calls misleading criticism of the firm among lawmakers and in the media.

In a statement last week, the company said a contract it received months after the Justice Department lawsuit worth up to $190 million didn’t involve its background check arm but went to its separate professional services division instead.

The company also said nobody currently with the company has ties to the allegations contained in the Justice Department complaint, which focus background checks from March 2008 to September 2012.

USIS also said it self-reported a recent cyberattack against the company, noting that agencies and defense contractors have been targeted in recent years, too.

“Yet despite attacks like these on other large government contractors, USIS is not aware of any case where the government has issued a stop work order or refused to award new contracts,” the company said.

But Mr. Cummings said USIS security measures “appear to be inferior” to protocols in place at federal agencies. He said while hackers broke into an OPM network of an office that handles background investigations in March, agency data protection systems “insulated personally identifiable information from the hackers.”

The company has Mr. Cummings echoed his previous complaints that the company has refused to answer his questions about executives bonuses to USIS executives, while raising new concerns about a cyberattack the company reported earlier this summer.

In his letter, Mr. Cummings said he wanted Congress to subpoena USIS‘ chief executive, Sterling Phillips. He also pointed to correspondence first reported by The Washington Times, when a lobbyist for USIS told the lawmaker’s staff that “the company does not anticipate making a further response.”

The message came in response to Mr. Cummings’s request for information on executive bonuses at USIS.

In a statement Monday, the company told The Times, “The company has been very responsive to the OGR 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.”

Last week, USIS said it disagreed with OPM’s decision not to exercise its remaining options on a contract for fieldwork and support services, but added it continued “provide high quality service” to other agencies.

Officials at the US Immigrations and Citizenship Services, which awarded the border security contract, have made no announcement on whether the OPM decision will affect that contract.

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