Rodríguez calls for investigation of DPS border security contracts

AUSTIN, March 16, 2012 – Today, State Senator José Rodríguez sent a letter to Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts, Susan Combs, requesting an investigation of the contracts between the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) and Abrams Learning and Information Systems (ALIS).

The text of the letter to Comptroller Combs is as follows:

March 16, 2012

The Honorable Susan Combs
Comptroller of Public Accounts
P.O. Box 13528, Capitol Station
Austin, Texas 78711-3528

Dear Comptroller Combs:

The State Auditor’s February 2012 report (SAO Report No. 12-019) of the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) and recent media reports on the outsourcing of Texas border security operations to Abrams Learning & Information Systems (ALIS), a private consulting firm based in Arlington, VA, have raised significant concerns about the transparency of DPS’ bidding and procurement processes as well as DPS’ management of millions of state and federal taxpayer dollars.

According to records from your office, ALIS has received nearly $20 million in payments from the state. After this initial review, numerous questions arose regarding the determination of ALIS as a “sole source vendor” as well as the lack of any meaningful performance or accountability measures.

Furthermore, the issues surrounding these contracts bring to light a serious public policy consideration of whether the state of Texas should have outsourced the bulk of border security operations to a private company with negligible experience in international border operations.

In an attempt to clarify the parameters of DPS’s relationship with ALIS and to determine exactly what ALIS’s contract deliverables were, I have posed several follow up questions and requested additional information from DPS (see enclosed letter to DPS Director Steven McCraw).

In addition to the issues surrounding DPS’s contracts with ALIS, the State Auditor’s report raised numerous questions about DPS’s procedures regarding procurement contracts. This independent report indicates that, on at least three occasions, DPS was unable to document why “emergency” action was necessary. Not only was there pervasive abuse of the “emergency” contracting procedures by DPS, this appears to be part of a larger failure to open contracts to competitive bidding as required by state law. A startling 83% of the contracts reviewed by the State Auditor in the cluster of federal grants for homeland and border security were not bid competitively as required by state law.

Other disturbing findings by the State Auditor include duplicate payments made by DPS to sub-grantees and that DPS has no process in place to track federal sub-grants, in some cases paying for one program with federal funds intended for another.

Given your agency’s purview over the state bidding and procurement processes, I ask you to conduct a full investigation of DPS’s contracts with ALIS as well as DPS’s general policies for bidding and procurement. As the elected chief steward of the state’s finances, I trust that you will share my concerns that Texans’ taxpayer dollars are not being spent in an accountable, transparent manner.

Thank you for your immediate attention to this matter, and I look forward to your response.


José Rodríguez

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