- The Washington Times
Thursday, April 12, 2018

The Drug Enforcement Administration has farmed out contracts to former employees at a cost of more than half a million dollars more than it would have paid if those workers were still at the agency, the Department of Justice inspector general said Thursday morning.

The DEA’s Asset Forfeiture Program has contracted Maximus Inc., a government employment agency, to hire workers to identify cash and other assets seized in drug crimes that could be sold for revenue. In total, the DEA paid Maximus $85 million under 12 separate contracts between 2013 and 2017, the report said.

Despite Maximus’ role as the main contractor, DEA supervisors selected the contract workers for the program. Of the 82 contract employees in the AFP, 33, or 40 percent, were former DEA workers with an average of 22 years at the agency, according to the inspector general report. Of the 33 former employees, 31 reported to the same DEA office they worked at before their retirement.

At least two of those workers were paid $485,386 more than they would have been if they were senior investigators at the DEA, the report said. Those employees also did not have a masters degree, which was necessary for the position and the DEA did not waive the requirement, according to the report.

DEA office paid local travel costs for contractors who worked away from the normal job site, even though such reimbursement is prohibited for contractors, according to the report. The report did not say how much the travel expenses cost the DEA.

“We found that the DEA is highly involved in the process of selecting task order workers, many of whom were former DEA employees and we believe the [Justice Management Division] needs to assess the contracting agency’s role to ensure it is appropriate and to safeguard the integrity of the contract personnel selection process,” the report said.

“While the OIG did not find evidence that DEA violated ethics rules in selecting contract personnel, there is room for improvement,” DEA spokesman Rusty Payne told The Washington Times in an email. “DEA will continue to examine its processes to ensure the integrity of the contract personnel selection process and we have worked to address the concerns outlined in the report.”

Awarding contractors to former DEA officials did not violate ethics rules, said Mary B. Schaefer, chief compliance officer for the DEA, in a letter to the Justice Department inspector general. But Ms. Schaefer agreed there “is room for improvement” and vowed to further examine it contracting procedures.

The inspector general recommended the DEA develop a system to identify former employees and ensure they do not have a conflict interest. It also recommended that the DEA work to address travel costs. Ms. Schaefer said in her letter that the DEA concurs will the the inspector general report and will make changes.

• Jeff Mordock can be reached at jmordock@washingtontimes.com.

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