DHS officials stand by big Accenture award

Hours before the House Appropriations Committee took action to block Accenture Ltd. from getting the U.S. Visit contract, Homeland Security Department officials were on the offensive. At issue is whether the company, by incorporating in Bermuda, is a federal tax dodger.

Accenture 'met the criteria of procurement. They have 25,000 U.S. employees. They pay federal taxes,' said Asa Hutchinson, DHS undersecretary for Border and Transportation Security.

Last week DHS awarded Accenture a 10-year contract for the U.S. Visitor and Immigration Status Indicator System. The award, worth potentially $10 billion, immediately touched off congressional concerns about where the winning contractor is incorporated. It has a large number of workers in the Washington area.

Speaking at a breakfast meeting for industry executives yesterday, Hutchinson, unprompted, said Accenture met all of the requirements for receiving contracts in the Federal Acquisition Regulation and that it deserved the win. Lockheed Martin LLP and Computer Sciences Corp. also bid for the contract.

Late yesterday, the committee attached an amendment to the DHS' fiscal 2005 appropriations bill aimed at Accenture. The amendment, proffered by Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), would bar companies that use loopholes to avoid paying federal taxes from holding homeland security contracts.

Hutchinson acknowledged what the General Accounting Office said of the U.S. Visit system, with its use of biometric identifiers and wide area data sharing: that it is risky.

'Of course it is risky. It's an IT system,' he quipped.

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