IG fears risks to DHS stimulus money

The Homeland Security Department’s inspector general recommends that DHS take steps to ensure it can properly oversee the $2.8 billion it is to receive under the economic stimulus law, including hundreds of millions for technology-related projects.

In a report released today, the IG identified concerns raised in its previous reports and those by the Government Accountability Office that may affect the department’s capability to manage the money it receives from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act effectively and efficiently.

The IG said its review of prior reports indicated the department is limited by insufficient numbers of acquisition and grants management personnel. The report also said DHS doesn’t have integrated and fully reliable systems to manage the funds, keep track of expenditures and produce accurate reports.

“While past weaknesses do not automatically translate into future deficiencies, the unprecedented levels of transparency, accountability and timeliness, as prescribed by the Recovery Act, make it critical that the department’s approach to spending and monitoring Recovery Act funds include establishing alternative practices as needed,” the IG's report, dated June 2009, stated.

The report said DHS components are required to expend the funds quickly, and the department is responsible for providing an unprecedented level of reporting on the expenditures that is timely, complete and transparent to the public.

DHS’ component agencies are to get hundreds of millions of dollars for information technology and technology in the stimulus law:

  • U.S. Customs and Border Protection got $100 million for nonintrusive inspection technology, $100 million for Southwest border technology and $60 million for tactical communications.
  • U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement got $20 million for automation modernization and tactical communications.
  • The Transportation Security Administration got $1 billion for its explosives detection system and checkpoint screening equipment.
The IG recommended that department’s senior official accountable for the stimulus spending work with the senior accountable officials in DHS’ component agencies to put in place a plan of action to mitigate the risks. In addition, the IG recommended that DHS document those risk mitigation strategies in the department’s Recovery Plan.

DHS has agreed to develop and put in place a plan of action to mitigate the risks that it agrees are vulnerabilities, the IG said.

About the Author

Ben Bain is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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