Dumping probe troubling

The size and complexities of the federal bureaucracy make it ripe for waste and inefficiencies, but also allows the government to be victimized in countless and costly ways.

A recent Associated Press report about wrongdoing against the federal government should anger every American – not just for the scope of the alleged dishonesty and its big cost to the taxpayers, but also for the possible dangerous implications tied to it.

Unfortunately, the potential for a dangerous, unwanted outcome still exists, regardless of how remote the prospect. It’s doubtful anyone can provide definite assurances otherwise, due to the important work not done.

Then there’s the ongoing question of why it took so long for the problem to be identified.

At its foundation, the wrongdoing demonstrated a belief that the government was too consumed by serious domestic and international issues, or possibly too inept, to ever realize something was amiss, even something so flagrant and massive as what occurred.

In fact, it took about three years for the scheme to begin unraveling.

At the center of what allegedly took place was U.S. Investigations Services, headquartered in Falls Church, Va., but with three offices in western Pennsylvania. USIS is a contractor for the federal Office of Personnel Management, the agency responsible for background investigations of current or prospective federal employees and contractors. However, it has many more contracts with other federal agencies.

In a civil complaint filed by the Justice Department against USIS, the government is claiming USIS, over a four-year period beginning about 2008, turned in at least 665,000 investigations that hadn’t been properly completed, but represented them as complete.

The Justice Department said on Jan. 22 that, when questions began surfacing regarding the company’s performance in April 2011, USIS attempted to cover up the fact that it had employed a practice known as “dumping” or “flushing” to increase its revenues and profits.

Allegedly, the wrongdoing, beyond submission of incomplete investigations, included instances where paperwork never was opened by a reviewer but the work was passed on as complete.

The “dumped” background investigations spanned most government departments or agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security, Justice Department, Defense Department and Defense Intelligence Agency.

According to the AP report, USIS in 2011 was involved in a background investigation of National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden, but the AP said Snowden’s job isn’t part of the lawsuit against USIS.

Nevertheless, an appropriate question for Americans to ponder is what damage someone not acceptable for employment by the federal government might be able to do if hired because of an incomplete background probe.

The Justice Department said in its civil complaint that the number of improper investigations amounted to about 40 percent of the cases USIS sent to the government over the four years in question, continuing through at least September 2012. Meanwhile, the government paid USIS $11.7 million in performance awards from 2008 to 2010, the court filing indicates.

The government should continue digging for the deepest roots of the wrongdoing, and the probe should determine whether grounds exist for criminal charges against the individuals who ordered the dumping.