(NEW YORK) — A U.S. government contractor, several of whose employees were caught on video drunk and drugged on a sensitive security mission in Afghanistan, is now being used to help fix the massive security breach at the Office of Personnel Management.
“What are they thinking?” asked Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-MO, who is now demanding to know how the company got its contract from the OPM despite the previous outrageous behavior and with no competitive bidding.
“This is a company that has demonstrated irresponsibility,” McCaskill told ABC News for a report to broadcast Friday on “ABC World News Tonight With David Muir”. “What in this company’s background gave them assurances that they are the company that can handle this incredibly sensitive matter at a time that Americans are really worried about the federal government’s ability to protect personal data?”
The company, formerly known as Jorge Scientific, was awarded the “sole source” contract to overhaul OPM’s computer network last year after hackers believed to be from China stole the personal records of more than 22 million U.S. government employees.
Just three years ago, Jorge Scientific was the subject of an ABC News investigation that featured video from whistleblowers showing employees staggeringly drunk while working as security personnel for the US government in Afghanistan.
In one video sequence, the company medical director was seen semi-conscious, with an syringe next to him.
The company changed its name after the ABC News report, said it fired all the employees involved and hired a new president.
Under its new corporate name, Imperatis, and with a new board of directors featuring high-ranking former military officials, the company has continued to receive hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. contracts, including the contract with OPM.
”This is a company with a bad record that has engaged in gross improprieties in the workplace,” said Sen. McCaskill. Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, brought up Imperatis’ checkered past in a Congressional hearing last month, saying the sole-source contract “does beg a lot of questions.”
And now other questions are now being raised about $135 million in what Sen. McCaskill calls “improper payments” involving another government contract.
In an audit report published in April, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) found the company could not provide documentation for the $135 million it collected for expenses.
“And when you can’t provide documentation for $135 million worth of work, that raises some red flags and it should have raised red flags,” said John Sopko, the inspector general, in an interview with ABC News. “So we’ve been questioning that and it’s raised a lot of suspicions for us.”
In a statement provided to ABC News, the company disputed the inspector general’s findings, and said it is confident that a review by the Army Contracting Command “will substantiate the costs in question by year’s end.”
The firm also said it has worked with OPM since 2014 after a system there was breached and “Imperatis proudly stands behind the work we are doing for OPM.”
The company added that it agreed the behavior of its employees on the video seen on ABC News was “inappropriate.”
“Imperatis was launched in early 2013 after problems arose at our predecessor company, Jorge Scientific,” the statement said, before describing the leadership shakeup. “We did this with the express intent of inspiring new values, ethics and culture into our company, and to restore the highest possible standard of integrity and professionalism.”
OPM spokesperson told ABC News they were still investigating the facts behind the selection of Imperatis, and added the Department of Homeland Security “officially owned the contract,” although OPM officials had recommended the choice of Imperatis.
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