Solons: Attaboy, Ridge, on U.S. Visit pact

Two influential members of Congress have praised the Homeland Security Department's decision to award the multibillion-dollar U.S. Visit contract to Accenture Ltd. of Reston Va.

Government Reform Committee chairman Tom Davis, a Republican, and Democrat Jim Moran yesterday wrote to DHS secretary Tom Ridge praising the U.S. Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator system procurement as 'fair, open, on time and fiercely competed.'

The systems integration contract to build a virtual border around the country could in theory amount to $10 billion, but DHS has said it likely will come in at a lower figure.

The contract award now is imperiled by an amendment to the DHS appropriations bill that would bar certain companies with overseas headquarters from holding the department's contracts.

Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) sponsored the amendment passed by the House Appropriations Committee by a 35-to-17 vote last week. She denounced Accenture's use of a loophole in the tax law to base its headquarters in Hamilton, Bermuda.

Accenture, DHS and the two lawmakers reject the contention that the company used a loophole known as a 'corporate inversion' to avoid paying federal taxes. Davis and Moran cited an October 2002 General Accounting Office report saying that Accenture did not remove income previously subject to federal tax when it incorporated in Bermuda three years ago.

DeLauro's amendment would strengthen a provision, previously enacted with her sponsorship, that would bar DHS from carrying out contracts the department has awarded to companies in Accenture's situation.

The House Rules Committee is considering the appropriations bill today and tomorrow and could craft a procedure to expose the DeLauro amendment to legislative revision on the floor of the House. A DeLauro spokeswoman said the Connecticut Democrat would adjust her legislative strategy as necessary to continue backing the provision.

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