Border securityCBP wasted $69 million in building border fence

Published 15 December 2011

A recent government report reveals that DHS wasted $69 million by buying too much steel for a border fence project

A recent government report reveals that DHS wasted$69 million by buying too much steel for a border fence project.

According to the DHS Inspector General, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) mistakenly purchased 27,557 tons or about $44 million worth of additional steel. The building materials were intended for a $1.2 billion fencing project under the Secure Fence Act of 2006 which mandated that the agency needed to construct nearly 300 miles of fence along the U.S.–Mexico border.

Before legally acquiring the land or meeting international treaty obligations, CBP officials went ahead and purchased the steel based on estimates. The report found that the agency had instructed the prime contractor to purchase roughly 145,000 tons of steel even before it had finalized the design for the fence.

As a result of the extra steel, CBP had to pay $9.8 million for additional storage. Furthermore in September 2009, border officials purchased thirty-four more tons of steel for $23,000, even though it had plenty lying in storage.

In defense of its actions, CBP said the agency was working under tight deadlines and needed large quantities of steel.

As a result, the selection of the subcontractor with a proven record to deliver the required large quantities of steel under tight time constraints was made in accordance to the “best value” criterion instead of a “lowest cost.” CBP considers that the contractor made a valid management decision,” the agency said in its rebuttal to the report.

In response DHS auditors said they recognized the time constraints the agency was working under but still faulted officials for not legally acquiring the land and meeting international treaty obligations before purchasing the steel. Doing so would have helped reduce the costs of purchasing and storing the steel.