TSA Lost $300 Million to Contractor Hiring Screeners After 9/11

WASHINGTON, June 30 /U.S. Newswire/ -- Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) today called for a scaling back of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) after an audit revealed massive waste in a one-year contract given to a private firm after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. The audit, performed by the Defense Contract Audit Agency and obtained by The Washington Post, calls into question $303 million of the $741 million spent by NCS Pearson Inc. to hire 60,000 airport passenger screeners.

''The government spent $12,350 to hire each screener,'' said CAGW President Tom Schatz. ''That is more than half of the first- year screener salary of $23,600. There is no organization in the world that should spend that much to hire an employee. These have to be the most expensive employees in U.S. history, and this extravagance must stop.''

The lack of oversight and the failure to follow federal contracting rules led to such expenses as $1,180 for 20 gallons of Starbucks Coffee -- $3.69 a cup -- at the Santa Clara Marriott in California.

''They paid latte prices for regular coffee,'' Schatz continued. ''This ranks as one of the most wasteful government contracts in memory. Post-9/11 urgency is no excuse for what looks like free-for-all looting of taxpayer dollars.''

Important details of the contract were not fixed, allowing the total cost to balloon by more than 700 percent. The hiring process was conducted at 150 hotels and other meeting facilities rather than Pearson's 925 private centers -- a disputed decision that resulted in adding $343 million to the cost of the contract. Much of the waste revolves around the army of 168 subcontractors hired by Pearson mostly without competitive bidding. Examples include: $30 to $40 per hour for security guards in the Virgin Islands, double the normal rate; $1,540 to rent 14 extension cords at $5 per day for three weeks at Wyndham Peaks Resort and Golden Door Spa in Telluride, Colo.; and $8,100 for elevator operators at the Marriott Marquis in Manhattan. The company that booked the hotels -- which did not even enter into a formal contract with Pearson -- took 10 percent off of every room it booked, so it had no incentive to keep costs down. Although Pearson executives blocked a complete review, auditors reviewed ''about two dozen of 150 assessment centers and documented unsubstantiated spending at nearly every turn.''

The federal government has spent more than $4 billion on improving transportation security since 9/11. In January 2005, Richard Skinner, acting inspector general of the Homeland Security Department, testified that TSA screeners fared no better in detecting prohibited items than screeners prior to 9/11. An April 2005 Government Accountability Office report found that privately employed screeners outperformed government screeners. The Bush administration might soon recommend major reductions in TSA's mission.

''Turning over airport security to a massive federal bureaucracy was a wasteful endeavor from the start,'' Schatz continued. ''It is time to protect both taxpayers and passengers in a more efficient and less costly manner.''