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Sunday, June 23, 2024

GAO: Agencies Can Better Monitor E-Verify Compliance in Federal Contracting

Without clear expectations and useful data, agencies may not be checking their contractors' compliance with this requirement, the Government Accountability Office said.

To confirm their employees’ eligibility to work in the U.S., most federal contractors must use the E-Verify program. The Office of Management and Budget expects agencies to ensure that their contractors comply, but not all agency officials we spoke to knew of this expectation.

Also, the Department of Homeland Security used to give agencies a quarterly list of contractors enrolled in and using E-Verify—but discontinued this report last year due to data accuracy issues.

Without clear expectations and useful data, agencies may not be checking their contractors’ compliance with this requirement, the Government Accountability Office said.

The E-Verify program allows employers to electronically confirm that their employees are eligible to work in the U.S. The Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) requires agencies to include, with certain exceptions, a contract clause directing contractors to enroll in and use the program. The Departments of Defense (DOD), Homeland Security (DHS), and Health and Human Services (HHS) included the clause in 22 of the 24 contracts that GAO reviewed.

However, the three selected agencies’ efforts to monitor contractor compliance with the E-Verify clause were inconsistent. Some officials thought they were not responsible for monitoring contractor compliance. The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) office that directs federal procurement policy told GAO that it expects agencies to monitor contractor E-Verify compliance. However, OMB has not clearly communicated this expectation to agencies.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)—a component of DHS—administers E-Verify. USCIS may terminate E-Verify accounts, including those of federal contractors, for misuse and non-use. Misuse includes unresolved discrepancies that prevent confirmation of an employee’s eligibility. Non-use includes not verifying any employees in a specified time frame. From 2020 to March 2023, USCIS terminated almost 300 contractor accounts for misuse and more than 5,000 such accounts for non-use. USCIS no longer terminates contractor accounts for non-use.

However, USCIS lacks a process to refer these contractors for further review, as required. The FAR states that DHS must refer contractors whose E-Verify accounts it terminates to suspension and debarment officials who determine whether contractors should be temporarily disqualified or excluded from government contracting. DHS officials acknowledged USCIS—the component responsible for these referrals—is not meeting this requirement. Agencies’ suspension and debarment officials, therefore, are not able to determine whether these federal contractors’ misuse of E-Verify merits further action. DHS officials said they plan to address this, but these plans are in the early stages.

GAO is making eight recommendations, including that OMB clarify agency responsibilities for monitoring contractor compliance with the E-Verify clause, and that DHS implement a process to refer contractors with terminated accounts to appropriate agency officials. DOD, DHS, HHS, and OMB concurred with the recommendations.

Read the GAO report

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Homeland Security Today
The Government Technology & Services Coalition's Homeland Security Today (HSToday) is the premier news and information resource for the homeland security community, dedicated to elevating the discussions and insights that can support a safe and secure nation. A non-profit magazine and media platform, HSToday provides readers with the whole story, placing facts and comments in context to inform debate and drive realistic solutions to some of the nation’s most vexing security challenges.
Homeland Security Today
Homeland Security Todayhttp://www.hstoday.us
The Government Technology & Services Coalition's Homeland Security Today (HSToday) is the premier news and information resource for the homeland security community, dedicated to elevating the discussions and insights that can support a safe and secure nation. A non-profit magazine and media platform, HSToday provides readers with the whole story, placing facts and comments in context to inform debate and drive realistic solutions to some of the nation’s most vexing security challenges.

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