House bill would give DHS IG SBInet oversight

The Secure Border Initiative Financial Accountability Act would require the DHS inspector general to review all contracts awarded under SBInet that are worth $20 million or more.

The House passed a bill late Sept. 28 by voice vote that would require the Homeland Security Department’s inspector general to review all contracts awarded under the Secure Border Initiative’s SBInet program that are worth worth $20 million or more.

The Secure Border Initiative Financial Accountability Act was introduced Sept. 25 by Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.), a member of the House Homeland Security Committee, who said the bipartisan legislation would help “ensure that taxpayer funds dedicated to technologies to secure the nation’s borders are spent efficiently and effectively.”

Rogrers said he and Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), the committee’s ranking member, “have worked for almost a year on this important bill.”

An earlier version passed the House as part of a border security measure in December 2005. According to a House committee staff member, the same language that appears in this version was reported in the fiscal 2007 DHS Authorization measure that passed the committee in July.

“This trigger builds accountability into every contract made for the Secure Border Initiative and will provide the American public with some certainty about where their money is going,” Thompson said.

He said the oversight legislation is justified because SBI’s predecessors, the Integrated Surveillance Intelligence System and America’s Shield initiative, cost more than $429 million and protected 4 percent of the border. “That's about $100 million for every 1 percent of the border,” Thompson said. “It is not an understatement to say that that has not been a cost-effective use of funds.”

Under terms of Rogers’ bill, DHS’ Office of the IG will complete its review no later than 60 days after the initiation of the contract and also when the contract is completed. It also requires the IG to assess the inclusion of small, minority and woman-owned businesses in the SBI subcontracting plans as a factor in its review.

Any limitations on small-business participation must also be reported to the DHS secretary.

The bill requires the IG to report any improper conduct or wrongdoing to the DHS secretary to determine whether to suspend or debar the contractor. The secretary must submit a plan of corrective action to Congress within 30 days of receiving the IG’s report.

The legislation has gone to the Senate, where a vote will have to wait until the 110th Congress convenes in January 2007.

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