Wackenhut Services Inc. Comes Under Congressional Scrutiny

WASHINGTON, July 18 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Gregory Friedman , an Investigator General with the Department of Energy, testified today before a congressional committee that Wackenhut Services Inc. (WSI), a subsidiary of Wackenhut/ G4S security company, has created a cause for concern in its management of major facilities.

In the hearing, held today on Capitol Hill, Wackenhut and the Bechtel Corporation were the two companies whose contracts with the government were under scrutiny. Regarding WSI, the Department of Energy IG said that, "Our review confirmed that the subject performance test may have been compromised...in addition to participating in the actual performance tests, contractor personnel also participated in the detailed planning and development of tests -- from our perspective a clear conflict of interest," Friedman said.

Representative Edolphus Towns (D-New York), chair of the Subcommittee on Government Management, Organization, and Procurement, convened the hearing on government contracts, which reviewed flaws in federal contracting that allow contractors with poor performance records to either renew existing contracts or receive subsequent contracts with the same or different federal agencies.

Although procurement rules require that past performance of contractors be weighed in the selection process, many companies that have experienced serious, documented cost overruns and quality control problems on federal contracts continue to receive new work.

During the hearing Towns expressed his distress with the Inspector General's reports on WSI's compromising of security drills, while still receiving a high performance rating.

"I don't understand how Wackenhut can be caught cheating on a drill, and still receive 97-98 on their evaluation. When I was in school, if you got caught cheating they would flunk out. It seems a 7th grader is held to higher standards."

Robin Smith , a former security officer at the Department for Homeland Security, testified. Smith, who achieved the rank of Airman First Class and was one of 125 women selected for an Air Force test program to receive combat training, told the committee about the security lapses she observed while working at the Department of Homeland Security.

Smith was posted at Building 3 at the Department of Homeland Security in 2005, which is a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility (SCIF), because a lot of classified documents are located there. According to her testimony, she witnessed "poor access control, lack of training, careless weapons handling, open posts, failed security tests, security breaches, falsified documents, and irresponsible handling of a hazardous substance attack."

Smith recounted an incident with a suspicious letter at the height of the anthrax scare that was especially troubling: "A DHS employee opened the letter, which contained an unidentified white powder. Some of it spilled onto the employee's body. Two security officers got a report of this incident and they notified their supervisors. When two Lieutenants arrived at the scene, they could have isolated the contaminated areas and kept other DHS employees from entering the areas, but they didn't do that. Instead they told the employee to wash the white powder off of herself. So she did that by walking across the hall, passing Secretary Chertoff's office and potentially contaminating a larger part of the building."

"I've never seen anything like it," Smith explained, referring to her security lapses she witnessed while working at DHS. "And this is the most prestigious contract next to the White House."

Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY), a member of the subcommittee, reintroduced the "Contractors and Federal Spending Accountability Act " (H.R. 3033) with Congressman Ed Towns (D-NY). The bill would create a comprehensive, centralized database to more efficiently monitor the federal procurement system and help protect U.S. taxpayer dollars. "Right now, there is nothing stopping a fraudulent contractor from bouncing from federal agency to federal agency, fleecing U.S. taxpayers the whole way," said Maloney in announcing the bill. "Congress can and should do more to fortify the federal procurement system, and show the door to contractors lining their pockets at the expense of hardworking taxpayers."

Wackenhut has had several recent incidents involving public scrutiny.

At the Oak Ridge Y-12 Savannah River DOE Nuclear Weapons site, there was a near friendly fire incident, falsification of training records and uncompleted physical fitness training, along with overworking security officers among other concerns.

At the Department of Homeland Security Headquarters on our country's southwest border, there was inadequate training that led to confusion regarding the handling of bomb and biological threats, no training for weapons of mass destruction and more.

At the Holston Army Ammunition Plant in Tennessee, a mailman posted as a security officer during an inspection, perimeter violations by boaters and bears were discovered, improperly employed applications had criminal records -- including felonies, and there was missing or inadequate equipment for the workers. Additionally, there is an outstanding claim that workers have been shorted more than $3 million in pay since 1999 for violation of the McNamara- O'Hara Service Contract Act of 1965 (SCA) which provides protection to workers employed on federal service contracts.

Valerie Long , SEIU Property Services Division Director, commented, regarding Wackenhut "A number of official findings and worker reports show that Wackenhut has a long track record of wasting government funds, falsifying various records, mistreating their workers, and endangering public safety, Yet they keep getting these government contracts. Increased government scrutiny is welcomed by all who care about our public safety and it appears that congress is now poised to do something about it."

Additional information about these incidents and more can be found on the website http://www.eyeonwackenhut.com .

Wackenhut Services Inc. and Wackenhut are subsidiaries of G4S. G4S, a foreign-owned company has the largest number of employees trading on the London stock exchange.

SEIU is the fastest growing union in North America . Approximately 250,000 SEIU property services workers nationwide clean, maintain, and provide security for commercial office buildings, co-ops, and apartment buildings, as well as public facilities like theaters, stadiums, and airports. Property Services workers are janitors, security officers, maintenance and custodial workers, stadium and arena workers, window cleaners, and other workers who provide important services.

SOURCE Service Employees International Union