Thursday, April 14, 2005

What a Waste!

Here's another example of wasting taxpayer money. Apparently, a few hundred miles of the Canadian and Mexican borders have a network of cameras and sensors---to the tune of $239 million. And, according to many, it doesn't even work.

The inspector general of the General Services Administration reports that tens of millions of dollars were wasted on this project. The IG is investigating overcharging by the contractor, International Microwave Corp., and also U.S. officials paying for work that was never performed. In addition, the IG's looking at actions of some current and former officials of the Border Patrol; its former parent agency, the Immigration and Naturalization Service, and GSA. (Note: The the Department of Homeland Security is now the parent of the Border Patrol.)

And it seems that the Integrated Surveillance Intelligence System (ISIS) cameras aren't so intelligent after all. In Washington state, more than 64 cameras fogged up in cold and rain. And IMC was paid $1 million to install 36 poles to hold several cameras there but it only installed 32.

Another example: According to a GSA report, eight border patrol zones cost $20 million. But none of its cameras operate fully. So why was IMC paid upfront for a lot of its work?

Border Patrol agents are complaining because, among other things, they can't control the cameras. One Border Patrol Center in New Mexico has 2 Border Patrol agents and 19 IMC employees. So why then did ISIS equipment repairs take months to finish?

Another interesting fact: Rebecca Reyes, 33, was IMC's vice president for contracts, and ran the ISIS program. She's the daughter of Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-Texas), a former Border Patrol official and strong supporter of the sensors and cameras. Sounds a little fishy to me. But GSA reports that there's no sign that Reyes took part in any wrongdoing.

Last year, a few Border Patrol officials came up with a new plan to install a network of cameras and sensors. That group says it's going to cost a few billion dollars. It's called "America's Shield Initiative." And Congress and the Bush administration love the idea.

And I'm sure taxpayers are gonna' to love that idea, too.

Probe Faults System for Monitoring U.S. Borders
By John Mintz, Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, April 11, 2005; Page A01

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