Skinner: DHS statutory compliance uncertain from weak systems

IT system limitations and manual reporting errors are preventing the Homeland Security Department from determining whether it is fully complying with the Buy American Act, according to the newly released Semiannual Report to Congress from the department's Inspector General Richard Skinner.

Congress enacted the Buy American Act in 1933 to encourage the federal government to buy American products, and since then Congress has allowed for a number of exemptions to the act.

The inspector general noted "no significant compliance issues" with the implementation of the act at DHS. However, it cannot be determined whether DHS complied with the requirements in a comprehensive, agency-wide fashion because of system limitations and errors, he said. The same problems were identified in a June 2005 IG report.

DHS continues to implement the recommended corrective actions dating from that previous report, and no new recommendations were made.

Overall, the inspector general produced 62 management and advisory reports, including 29 reports pertaining to Gulf Coast hurricane recovery efforts, from April 1 to Sept. 30, 2006, the semiannual report said. The office identified $46 million in questionable costs, of which $14 million were determined to be unsupported; moreover, an additional $74 million in DHS funds that could be put to better use also were identified.

The office's investigations resulted in 321 arrests, 333 indictments and 243 convictions during the period. One of the arrests involved a contract employee of the Secret Service that had admitted to stealing about 60 laptop computers and providing them to another contract employee. Only one computer was recovered. The subject of the investigation was arrested and charged with theft on Sept. 7, 2006, the report said.

The IG examined a number of IT-related issues at the department during the period, including radio frequency identification security, information security and data mining. All those management reports were issued during the period and are available on the inspector general's Web site.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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