Criticizing a costly hiring agreement and unauthorized use of a retinal-scanning device, government auditors ripped holes in Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) contract with a personnel-recruiting firm.
“CBP paid Accenture Federal Services approximately $13.6 million for startup costs, security requirements, recruiting and applicant support. In return, Accenture has processed two accepted job offers,” according to a “Management Alert” by Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General (OIG).
You read that right: two.
The Accenture contract, totaling $297 million, was signed last year with the expectation that 7,500 Border Patrol officers would be hired over five years.
In its defense, the chronically short-handed CBP asserted that Accenture “marketed and recruited thousands of new applicants.” But OIG determined that neither CBP nor Accenture could track the applicants recruited by Accenture.
Auditors also eyed problems involving an Accenture retinal scanning tool used “to discern deception based on eye and face muscle movement.” The EyeDetect tool would pre-screen job applicants.
OIG discovered that Accenture launched EyeDetect without required approvals from DHS’s Science and Technology Directorate and Privacy Office. This exposed the agency to “increased legal risk,” the audit warned.
Meantime, “Accenture is struggling to implement the technology and tools promised to improve candidate quality and reduce time to hire,” OIG stated. “For example, Accenture proposed using its e86 automation tool, software developed to validate electronic security clearance forms and accelerate background investigations.”
But auditors found that the e86 was shelved due to “functionality issues,” including high error rates and multiple software glitches. As a result, Accenture had to begin reviewing security clearance forms manually, resulting in a backlog of forms requiring review.
While CBP continued to pay Accenture, agency staffers carried out “a significant portion of the hiring operations,” such as application intake and qualification review, ordering of medical and fitness exams, drug testing and initiation of background investigation forms, the OIG audit reported.
This month, the Inspector General recommended that CBP:
- Assess Accenture’s contract performance and determine whether the company should reimburse DHS for services not provided.
- Analyze whether the Accenture payment structure is the most cost-effective and in the best interest of the government, and if not, restructure the contract as appropriate.
- Consult with the proper entities and obtain any required approvals prior to deploying EyeDetect.
- Develop and implement performance metrics for the Accenture contract.
CBP has pledged to address the recommendations, and indicated it was still developing performance metrics.
Would have been nice if such metrics and commonsense were built into the original contract. But better late than never, we suppose.