Private companies typically don’t fill out their own customer satisfaction surveys, and teachers are not generally allowed to pen their own evaluations. But the federal government sometimes pays contractors to perform quality checks on their own work, with predictably abusive consequences.
The most notorious, recent case involved a firm called U.S. Investigations Services, Inc., a Falls Church, VA-based company that was hired by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management to investigate the backgrounds of current or prospective federal employees who needed security clearances — as well as to perform a quality review of each background investigation before submitting it.
Instead, the contractor cut corners, and passed along thousands of background investigations to federal authorities without actually conducting the required quality reviews, according to the U.S. Justice Department.
On Sept. 19, however, half the Congress voted unanimously to prevent federal contractors that process security clearances from conducting quality reviews of their own work. The bill does not have a sponsor in the House of Representatives, but Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., the principal Senate author, said via a spokesperson that he is working to find one.
“We have been playing fast and loose with the background investigation process, and it’s past time to make wholesale reforms,” Tester said in prepared statement. “This bill is a step in the right direction, and I’m pleased it’s moving forward.”
The Obama administration says it supports the reform. “We applaud Senator Tester and the other members of the Committee for their unwavering commitment to improving the integrity of the background investigation process,” Susan Ruge, associate counsel to the Inspector General of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), said in an emailed statement after the Senate vote. She said it would help ensure background checks meet the "highest quality standards".