Category Archives: Oversight/Contract.Management

This company is making millions from America’s broken immigration system

Source: Michael E. Miller, Washington Post, March 9, 2017
 
… More than 350,000 undocumented immigrants were detained between Oct. 1, 2015, and Sept. 30, 2016 — a number that could rise this year under President Trump’s immigration crackdown. As asylum seekers, visa violators and those charged with crimes wait for their cases to be heard in badly backlogged immigration courts, thousands are eligible for bail, just as they would be in criminal courts. Yet few can afford it.  Libre has found a niche helping them post their bonds — for a price. In exchange for their freedom, immigrants sign contracts promising to pay Libre $420 per month while wearing the company’s GPS devices. But these contracts are the subject of lawsuits and allegations of fraud by immigrants such as Flores who claim they didn’t understand them. … Few companies have benefited from the country’s broken immigration system like Libre. An unprecedented immigration court backlog of more than 540,000 cases, fueled by the Central American refu­gee crisis and coupled with soaring immigration bond prices, means that many detainees eligible for bail choose between spending many months behind bars or paying Libre’s fees.

… As Libre has expanded, its contracts and tactics have come under increasing scrutiny from immigration lawyers, advocates and elected officials. Both a Guatemalan government official and a California congresswoman have called for investigations, although an ICE inquiry three years ago concluded that the company was not breaking the law. Two lawsuits in California, including a class-action complaint filed last month, could bring new attention to the company’s business practices and the control it wields over the lives of its clients. … Last year, 12 percent of the country’s detained immigrants — more than 42,000 — found a way to post bond. There was no competition, although ICE itself contracts with a private company, BI, to monitor undocumented immigrants with GPS ankle bracelets instead of detaining them. The program, which has grown from 6,000 immigrants in 2013 to about 30,000 today, doesn’t cost immigrants anything. Instead, BI charges the government $4.41 per immigrant per day, according to a 2015 report by the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General. ICE spent about $50 million on the program last year. …

Govt Watchdog Finds Flaws in Implementation of Contractor Whistleblower Law

Source: Daniel Van Schooten, Project On Government Oversight, March 7, 2017

Advocates of whistleblower rights achieved a victory in December when then-President Obama signed whistleblower protections permanently into law for employees of companies working on civilian federal contracts (Defense Department contractor employees were already covered by a permanent program). Previously the protections were part of a four-year pilot program that began in 2013. While making these legal protections permanent was an important step forward in contractor and government accountability, the track record for employees filing complaints over the pilot program’s first few years hasn’t been encouraging, according to a new report released by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) last week. The GAO report indicates that IGs and agencies have not always implemented all of the pilot program’s requirements. … The GAO report states that 127 whistleblower retaliation complaints were submitted by contractor employees during the first two and a half years of the program. Of those, 44 were investigated by the involved agency’s Office of Inspector General (OIG). … None of the 27 completed investigations at the time resulted in findings that substantiated whistleblower reprisal against the employee.

While that sample size is relatively small and every case has to be individually reviewed on its merits, it is concerning that in the first two and a half years of the law, not a single claim of retaliation was substantiated. While it is clearly possible that there was in fact no retaliation in any of these cases, there are a number of other reasons that may also contribute to the lack of any substantiated complaints. For example, when reviewing another whistleblower protection law, the Project On Government Oversight observed at the Defense Department OIG an overly narrow legal interpretation of protections regarding defense contractor employees. … The GAO also found inconsistent implementation of some portions of the law, which could impact the final outcome of complaints and whether or not complaints are filed. … Even when an OIG does not find that reprisal occurred, the agency head must, by law, make a final determination—a step that did not properly occur in most of the cases. … Of the 27 investigations that were completed, one IG, responsible for 15 of them, reported that it had not sent any to the agency head for final determination. Of the remaining 12, all IGs said they referred their findings to the agency heads, but it is unclear how often the agency head made a final ruling. … The now-permanent protections provided to contractors and subcontractors is a big win for whistleblowers. We hope agencies and IGs take these GAO findings to heart and make sure that people who stand up to report waste, fraud, or abuse are given all the protections provided for in the law.

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GAO Weighs in on the State of Federal Contracting

Source: Charles S. Clark, Government Executive, March 10, 2017
 
Contractors working with major federal agencies delivered $438 billion in products and services in fiscal 2015, a 24 percent decrease from fiscal 2011, according to a wide-ranging roundup from the Government Accountability Office.  The 66-page report titled “Contracting Data Analysis: Assessment of Government-wide Trends” said the drop-off occurred mostly at the Defense Department, which saw contracting go down by 31 percent in that timeframe.  Services contracts have now risen to 60 percent of total government obligations — 50 percent of Pentagon awards and 80 percent of those let by civilian agencies over the past five years, GAO said. Services contracts have now risen to 60 percent of total government obligations — 50 percent of Pentagon awards and 80 percent of those let by civilian agencies over the past five years, GAO said. …. Based on judgments by GAO and the Office of Federal Procurement Policy, about $50 billion in annual contracting is spent on management support and other services that need increased attention, GAO said.

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Who’s Cheating American Workers? Federal Contractors Stealing Wages, Putting Workers In Danger, Report Says

Source: Marcy Kreiter, International Business Times, March 6, 2017

Federal contractors, who employ about 20 percent of all American workers and receive $500 billion in taxpayer funds annually, have been stealing wages and endangering workers despite Obama administration policies designed to protect workers, Sen. Elizabeth Warren said in releasing a report Monday. … The report indicates 66 of the largest 100 federal contractors have violated federal wage and hour laws, and a third of the largest penalties levied since 2015 were imposed by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Some violations have been fatal, including four in a single year at Goodyear. … The report calls its finding “deeply disturbing” and called on President Donald Trump and Senate Republicans to stop House Republicans from “dismantling” worker protections. It also indicated the findings are just the tip of the iceberg because only data from Department of Labor inspections were examined. The employer with the most wage and hour violations nationwide was AT&T with nearly 30,000, the report said. Another major violator was private prisons operator Corrections Corporation of America, now known as CoreCivic, with more than 21,000 violations. When it came to federal contracts specifically, Manpower Group racked up the most violations with 19,838, followed by USProtect Corp. with 7,263 and Management & Training Corp. with 5,519. …

Read full report here.

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WARREN RELEASES CONTRACTORS REPORT
Ted Hesson, Politico Morning Shift, March 6, 2017
 
In the absence of a regulation requiring a federal contractor to disclose past labor violations when bidding on a big contract, the federal government may simply have to assume that it has. That’s one way to interpret a report that Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) released this morning that finds 66 of the top 100 largest contractors have violated federal labor law. In addition, “every one of the top ten contractors [has] been cited for federal labor law violations,” the report said. The report added that “of the 100 largest penalties imposed by OSHA since January 1, 2015, more than a third were issued to companies that have held federal contracts within the last decade, and 12 applied to companies that received contracts worth at least $100,000 from the federal government in 2016.”

Haverhill contractor settles allegations of overbilling MBTA, prevailing wage violations

Source: Eagle-Tribune, February 25, 2017
 
A New Hampshire-based general contractor with ties to Haverhill and one of its subcontractors have agreed to pay more than $420,000 for submitting false and inflated payment requests in connection with their construction of the Assembly Square Station on the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority’s (MBTA) Orange Line in Somerville, Attorney General Maura Healey announced Friday.  S&R Construction Enterprises, its president Stephen Early of Haverhill, subcontractor A&S Electrical and its manager Gregory Lane agreed to resolve allegations they violated the Massachusetts False Claims Act by knowingly submitting false and inflated pay estimates to improperly front load payments under their contracts. In addition, S&R Construction, based in Newton, New Hampshire, and A&S Electrical are barred from bidding on and accepting new public contracts in Massachusetts for five years and one year, respectively. …

Private Prison Group Rejects Push for Independent Audits

Source: The Associated Press, February 17, 2017

The largest U.S. private prison operator has rejected a shareholder resolution seeking independent audits of its detention facilities. The Human Rights Defense Center criticized CoreCivic, formerly Corrections Corporation of America, for the rejection. Center associate director, Alex Friedmann, filed the resolution. He owns just enough CoreCivic stock to attend shareholder meetings and file resolutions. Audits would’ve tracked categories in an August 2016 Justice Department inspector general report, including violence rates and use of force, disciplinary and grievance systems, contraband, lockdowns and positive drug tests. The resolution mentions that in the report, CoreCivic exceeded other private prison groups on prisoner-on-prisoner assaults, sexual assaults on staff, fights, suicide attempts and self-mutilation. In response, Nashville-based CoreCivic noted the audits currently conducted. CoreCivic says the resolution overlooks positive statistics and omits contract prisons serve a different population, often non-U.S. citizens.

How the Uber effect will reinvent public transit

Source: Rahul Kumar, American City & County, February 15, 2017

A recent study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) came to the headline-grabbing conclusion that up to 95 percent of New York City taxi rides could be met through only 2,000 on-demand 10-person shuttles. The study demonstrates what companies like Uber and Lyft are striving toward, but also what many public transit agencies are struggling to address: that future transportation systems will seamlessly and dynamically match riders with the best transit modes and routes. … Existing fixed route-based transit systems are just that: fixed. There are plenty of advantages to these systems, not the least of which is operational simplicity. But our nation’s backbone of transit agencies – often overburdened and underfunded – should be asking themselves “what service options do riders want?” as opposed to “what service options are the easiest for us to deliver?” The answer is personal public transit. This concept of on-demand mobility isn’t all that new, however. … Another issue is the cost and operation of paratransit. … Transit agencies from Boston to Washington have recently started to look to partners like Uber and Lyft to help provide a ride-hailing option to relieve fiscal and infrastructure pressures. A 2016 Brookings report estimates transit agencies could save $1.1 billion to $2.2 billion per year using ride-hailing companies for paratransit, based on an average $13 to $18 per ride. However, the secret here is that versus transit these savings do not scale up very well; ride-hailing services are really not designed to handle simultaneous, multiple trips efficiently, therefore even a bus with six passengers on it has less of a cost impact than six separately ordered Uber vehicles. … Forward-thinking city planners in Gainesville, Fla., and Helsinki are reevaluating the traditional transit equation and instead choosing to co-opt ridesharing and even autonomous vehicle technology to fill current service gaps in less densely populated areas. … Solving the inefficiency riddle will ultimately require transit agencies, technology companies and other innovators to seamlessly work together to maximize social benefits because public transit benefits every American—even if you don’t ride.

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Cities release invoices showing Uber bills
Source: Ryan Gillespie, Orlando Sentinel, January 25, 2017

Five Central Florida cities that cut deals with Uber hoping to boost SunRail ridership have released records revealing how much money they will pay the ride-sharing service, which the company had hoped to keep a “trade secret.” Cities began receiving invoices this week that tabulated costs through Jan. 17, which just surpasses the halfway point of the yearlong program. To that date, the highest total came from Altamonte Springs, which has paid for $14,863.59 in Uber rides. Sanford received a bill showing it owed $7,869.99. Additionally, Lake Mary owes $723.38 and Longwood owes $681.17, and Maitland owes $324.65 records show. In July, the cities began the one-year pilot with Uber to cover 25 percent of Uber fares on rides that start or finish at a SunRail station, and also start or finish within a city’s limits. Cities also cover 20 percent of rides on trips that start and finish within the borders of participating cities. …

Can public transit and ride-share companies get along?
Source: Kyle Shelton, The Conversation, September 22, 2016

In Centennial, Colorado and Altamonte Springs, Florida, residents and visitors can now get a free ride to the nearest train station. The ride is paid for by the local public transit agency, but it’s not a public bus that makes the trip. Rather, it’s a car driven by someone working for ride-sharing companies Lyft and Uber. There are potential public benefits – the hope of increased ridership, better service for hard-to-serve areas and cost and equipment efficiencies. Competition could push sometimes slow-moving transit agencies to innovate and improve. There are also risks. Ride-sharing companies have devastated the private taxi market, effectively undercutting the entire industry in some cities. Mobility rights advocates and transit employees fear the same thing could happen to public transit, remaking, under private ownership, the way millions of Americans get around every day. … A likely outcome of ride-share and authority interaction is more of what is already taking shape in Colorado, Florida and many other locales – small-scale, replicable cooperation. Centennial and Altamonte Springs are attempting to address what is know in the transportation sector as the “first mile/last mile” problem. The idea is that many potential transit riders don’t use the service because it’s too far from either the beginning or end of a given trip. Offering ride-sharing as a way to connect from the doorway to the transit stop may help overcome this issue. … The biggest question about these new relationships is how well they meet riders’ needs over time. Disability rights advocates have already warned that substituting ride-share services for existing agency-run paratransit programs – on-demand rides for users with disabilities – may be a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Public agencies and most private transportation companies are bound to provide these services to all users, but it’s not yet clear whether newer ride-sharing companies must also – or how contracting with a government agency might require it. …
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Stormy Seas Ahead for US Shipbuilding Safety

Source: Project on Government Oversight, February 14, 2017

On Friday, the Center for Investigative Reporting published a disturbing exposé of the national defense shipbuilding industry, documenting how the US Navy and Coast Guard award billions of dollars in contracts to shipbuilders with lax safety standards. The article starkly illustrated the lack of accountability in the industry and the “unhealthy codependency” between the major shipbuilding companies and Uncle Sam. The article focused on one company, VT Halter Marine, and a deadly explosion at its Escatawpa, Mississippi, shipyard in November 2009. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) initially fined VT Halter $1.3 million for violations relating to the explosion, which killed two workers and injured five others, but later reduced the fine to $837,000. One month after the explosion, the Navy awarded VT Halter an $87 million contract to build an oceanographic survey ship. Since then, the company has been cited for other workplace safety and environmental violations, yet is still receiving federal contracts. The government’s top three shipbuilders—General Dynamics, Huntington Ingalls Industries, and Austal USA—also have documented histories of misconduct, including a $171,300 OSHA fine of General Dynamics in 2012 for violations at its shipyard in Bath, Maine. The Center for Investigative Reporting found a startling lack of concern for safety on the part of the Navy. …

Several factors have created this dire situation. First, the government has few alternatives when it comes to building or repairing ships. … Second, shipyard workers and their families have limited legal recourse for workplace injuries and fatalities, and the Navy and Coast Guard are more concerned with production than safety. … Third, federal regulations governing how contractors are evaluated and selected under-emphasize companies’ workplace safety records. …

Covering the Contractors: The Current State of the Government Contractor Defense

Source: U.S. Chamber of Commerce Institute for Legal Reform, February 06, 2017

Covering the Contractors: The Current State of the Government Contractor Defense examines the current scope of liability for government contractors. Private contractors are increasingly being used by the federal government to carry out a variety of tasks, including military operations, border protections, equipment manufacturing, and countless others. As these tasks grow in number and size, the issue becomes how to allow contractors to carry out work for the government without exposing them to litigation, while still holding them accountable. The Supreme Court has not ruled in this area in almost three decades and lower courts have been split. ILR’s paper looks at the current state of the government contractor defense, the role of the federal government in litigation against contractors, and some of the questions that still need to be addressed by the courts.

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New Youngstown prison contract could put hundreds back to work

Source: WYTV, December 15, 2016

Hundreds of people could be back to work at the private prison on the east side of Youngstown. Mayor John McNally said on Thursday CoreCivic recently let him know of new developments for the facility formerly known as the CCA. The company laid off more than 250 workers at the Youngstown prison in 2015 after federal prison contracts ended. McNally said CoreCivic received a new contract to house up to 600 federal immigration detainees. It will start at the beginning of the year. … Gov. John Kasich just approved a plan to send some state inmates to the private prison. That could take place as soon as next spring. …

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Governor gets bill that could benefit Youngstown’s private prison
Source: WFMJ, December 7, 2016

A bill on its way to the desk of Ohio Governor John Kasich could breathe new life into a private prison in Youngstown. Lawmaker in Columbus have passed a bill to ease overcrowding in Ohio’s state operated prisons by allowing more people to be housed in prisons for profit, such as the Northeast Ohio Correctional Center on Hubbard Road. The U.S. Bureau of Prisons pulled 1,400 offenders from the private prison in Youngstown last year after awarding its contract to another company. The reduction resulted in the loss of 185 jobs at the prison according to a notice posted under the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act. …

Ohio Senate OKs bill allowing private prisons to take state inmates
Source: Mark Kovac, The Vindicator, December 2, 2016

Legislation that would allow state prisoners to be transferred to private prisons, like the one in Youngstown, has cleared the Ohio Senate. The Thursday vote on Senate Bill 185 was 26-1, and the legislation heads back to the Ohio House for consideration of Senate amendments. The original legislation focused on arson offenses, expanding the crime to include unoccupied structures. Language added by senators during committee deliberations would enable the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction to contract with private facilities to house state prisoners. State Sen. John Eklund of Chardon, R-18th, who serves as chairman of the committee that considered the legislation, said the language would allow the state to take advantage of inmate beds left vacant when the federal government ended contracts to house federal prisoners at the Northeast Ohio Correctional Center in Youngstown. … The Federal Bureau of Prisons opted in March 2015 not to renew a contract, which expired May 31, with NOCC on Youngstown’s East Side, resulting in the exodus of about 1,400 of its 2,000 prisoners. Those prisoners were illegal immigrants charged with felonies. Also, 185 employes were laid off. Then, four months ago, federal officials announced they no longer routinely would house federal inmates in privately operated prisons because of a rapid decline in the U.S. inmate population nationwide. The prison, run by CoreCivic of Nashville, currently houses about 580 inmates through a contract with the U.S. Marshals Service that expires at the end of 2018. …