Skinner: DHS acquisition management floundering

Report uncovers poor performance in knowledge management and information systems

The Homeland Security Department spent nearly $16 billion in fiscal 2006, but its acquisition operations are performing at mostly low levels, according to DHS Inspector General Richard Skinner's semiannual report to Congress.

The IG issued 14 "Limited Progress" scores, which is the lowest category, and 6 "Modest Progress" scores, which is second lowest, for its first Acquisition Scorecard for the department. No higher scores were awarded.

The report card offered 20 scores overall, in four categories: Acquisition at DHS headquarters and Federal Emergency Management Agency, Coast Guard's Deepwater program and Customs and Border Protection's Secure Border Initiative Network (SBI-Net). Each component was graded for progress on developing leadership, policies, financial accountability, workforce and IT systems management.

While most of the programs showed modest progress in leadership, the area of poorest performance was in knowledge management and information systems, in which all four components scored poorly. DHS headquarters is making modest gains in workforce development, while SBI-Net scores higher than the rest in financial accountability.

The scorecard is contained in the IG's latest semiannual report to Congress, which provides an overview of investigations, audits and other activity by the office during the six months that ended March 31.

For example, in one case, the report states that a former Federal Protective Service officer plead guilty to one count of conspiracy, bribery and making false statements in connection with an apparent quid pro quo relationship with a contractor. The officer accepted free plane tickets and trips to play in golf tournaments from a DHS security contractor, in exchange for providing references for future contracts. Neither the officer nor the contractor is identified in the report.

During the period, the IG identified $53 million in questioned costs, of which $6 million were unsupported. The office produced 341 investigative reports, which they resulted in 286 arrests, 245 indictments, 121 convictions and 18 personnel actions. The office also produced 36 management reports and 16 financial grant audits during the period. Overall, the IG investigated 8,619 complaints during the period, of which about half were forwarded to component agencies.

Many of the investigations involved payments by FEMA to people making false claims of being victims of Hurricane Katrina.

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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