Accusations of fraud do not prevent the federal government from awarding a contract to a company under investigation.
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service awarded a $190 million contract to a private firm called U.S. Investigations Services to help operate the nation's immigration system despite the firm's checkered past, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The firm, besides having vetted national security Agency leaker Edward Snowden, is currently under federal investigation for "improperly reviewing background checks in an effort to increase its revenue," according to Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla.
“The fact that a company can commit so many mistakes — including ones that jeopardize our national security — and be rewarded for their incompetence at a high price tells us yet again that our contracting system is broken,” Coburn said in a statement Thursday.
Even so, the federal government describes USIS as a "low risk" firm that has "outstanding" management, according to Coburn.
However, the federal Office of Personnel Management's inspector general found in a June 4 report that a USIS reviewer completed more than 15,000 background checks within one month, some minutes within each other.
Twenty-four percent of the reviewers lacked proof they completed the training required to do their jobs, according to the OPM IG.
Edward Snowden is interviewed on NBC, left; Sen. Tom Coburn, right. (Photos: AP)Officials with the Customs and Immigration Service told the Journal they had to award the contract to the lowest bidder.
Yet, the Court of Federal Claims said in a March ruling that USIS' bid was higher than at least two of the losing bidders, and that price was the "least important factor for deciding who won," according to Coburn's office.
UPDATE (July 7, 2:16 p.m.): A USIS spokeswoman defended the company and its having won the contract, saying the company's Professional Services Division, which won the contract, "is not involved in the background investigation business and has not been linked in any way to the ongoing government investigation." She said the firm "continues to cooperate fully with the government’s investigation and in no way condones the behavior that is alleged to have occurred in the past."