U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) partially failed to fully comply with federal and departmental guidance for monitoring and overseeing dozens of transportation contracts relating to illegal immigrants, resulting in more than $1 million dollars in wasted payments and expenditures from October 2019 through April 2022, according to a new report.
The Inspector General's office also conducted a virtual site visit to the ICE Field Office in Los Angeles, California, as part of the report, it said.
It found that ICE "did not adequately review invoices to ensure expenses were correct, supported, and reasonable," resulting in approximately $408,875 "in erroneous or unsupported payments" and $900,144 "that could have been put to better use."
According to the Inspector General, ICE allocated $799 million across 13 contracts with vendors for the arrests and removals of illegal immigrants between 2019 and 2022.
This includes the transportation of illegal immigrants to various locations such as ICE detention centers, Family Residential Centers, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Refugee Resettlement facilities, or returning the illegal immigrants back to their home country, depending on the circumstances surrounding the apprehension.
Such transportation typically occurs via ground or air transit and the vendors provide transportation services.
'Erroneous or Unsupported Charges'"From October 2019 through April 2022, ICE reported that it obligated $799 million and expended about $746 million for 13 transportation services contracts. ICE awarded the contracts for transportation to be available when needed but did not track the number of noncitizens transported per contract," the report states.
ICE also failed to adequately review contractor invoices to ensure the contract is "accurate and complete and that costs are allowable and reasonable," according to the report.
Additionally, ICE did not always appoint or certify contracting officers representatives (COR), who are responsible for accurately assessing the contractor’s performance, leading to poorly reviewed invoices and inadequate management of the contractor's performances, the report found.
"Costs are allowable if they comply with the terms of the contract — for example, billed rates on an invoice should match the rate specified in the contract — and are supported by adequate documentation to show that the costs claimed are allocable to the contract," the report states. "A cost is reasonable if, in nature and amount, it does not exceed what would be incurred by a prudent person in the conduct of competitive business."
According to the Inspector General, after reviewing four invoices submitted by ICE transportation services contractors and comparing them to contracts and supporting documentation, it found that ICE had paid $408,875 in "erroneous or unsupported charges."
These were the result of incorrect contract labor rate charges, and higher flight hour rate charges, among others, which resulted in overcharges, the report found.
In one such case, ICE could not provide supporting documentation for approximately $128,321 of a contractor's invoiced transportation expenses, the Inspector General's report said.
ICE Staffing Issues Exacerbating Cost Errors"ICE also paid for costs that may not have been reasonable," the report said, citing one such incident where a contractor provided charter bus services for transporting illegal immigrants.
"According to the COR, U.S. Border Patrol requested that buses be present each day at two Border Patrol stations due to a significant number of noncitizen encounters and the stations reaching maximum capacity. Contractor 4 secured the requested number of buses and submitted documentation supporting the cost as part of its invoices to ICE," the report said. "We reviewed Contractor 4’s invoices from February 2022 through April 2022 and found that, although Border Patrol requested an average of eight buses each day, ICE regularly used only two or three of these buses each day to transport noncitizens from the two Border Patrol stations."
The Inspector General's report credited the lack of oversight, in part, to CORs having "multiple competing responsibilities," aside from their primary role, meaning they do not always have time to review invoices in depth.
While the report noted multiple issues with ICE's oversight of transportation contracts for illegal immigrants, it did note that employees with the agency are battling with chronic staffing issues, leading to some workers taking on multiple roles.
"Without adequate staffing to review and approve invoices, ICE is prone to approving inaccurate and incomplete invoices, which can lead to unallowable costs," the report noted.
Additionally, the Inspector General's office suggested ICE balance the number of buses it charters from border patrol stations with actual demand in order to make better use of thousands of dollars, such as the $900,144 which "could have been put to better use."
The Epoch Times has contacted ICE for comment.
In July, that figure stood at 245,213, making August the highest number of illegal crossing attempts in recorded history.