This story will interest anyone who has ever had to recruit employees, or hire a consulting firm -- or honestly even anyone who just simply lives in the United States and pays taxes.

It's about what happened during a time of record unemployment, when the Trump administration tried to recruit a big group of new employees to work on one of its top priorities.

The Inspector General at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security issued a scathing report showing the utterly insane amount of money that the government paid to recruit new border agents, under a contract with a giant U.S. consulting firm.

The $297 million contract went to Accenture, which was supposed to recruit and retain a total of 7,500 agents for things like Customs and Border Protection, the Border Patrol, Air and Marine Interdiction agents.

So far, the Trump administration paid $13.6 million -- and for its money, it got a grand total of two new agents.

'Wasting millions of taxpayer dollars'

Two. Not a typo. Two. Meaning the average cost per hire of new border agents under Accenture's contract was $6.8 million. 

There isn't much we can do to put this into greater perspective, but the starting salary for these agents is $40,000 -- which is actually what the cost-per-hire was supposed to be. But this means that the pair of agents Accenture wound up recruiting would have to work for 170 years before they made as much money as Accenture made for recruiting them.

According to the Inspector General, this wasn't just bad luck or the unexpected bad execution of a brilliant idea.

Instead, although Accenture was supposed to come up with a"n efficient, innovative, and expertly run hiring process," according to the report, it instead simply "relied heavily" on the recruiting infrastructure and personnel that the Customs and Border Patrol already had.

"We are concerned that CBP may have paid Accenture for services and tools not provided. ... CBP risks wasting millions of taxpayer dollars on a hastily approved contract that is not meeting its proposed performance expectations," says the report, which was issued this month.

Can't pass a lie detector

The Inspector General report, entitled "Management Alert -- CBP Needs to Address Serious Performance Issues on the Accenture Hiring Contract" (what the title lacks in artistry it more than makes up for in clarity), was first reported by NPR.

Accenture Federal Service, which is based in Dublin, Ireland, told NPR in an email that it remains "focused on fulfilling our client's expectations under our contract," but did not answer other questions.

The CPB itself was a bit less enthusiastic: "While we take some exception to the OIG's characterization of the contract, we do agree the contract has been a challenge, primarily due to the innovative efforts by both parties and we are reviewing how best to use it moving forward," a CPB spokesperson told NPR.

In fairness, it's hard to hire people to work for the Border Patrol. When this contract was first reported last year -- before the woeful under-performance -- a CPB spokesperson blamed poor recruiting on "changing generational values, the statewide legalization of marijuana and a growing distrust of law enforcement."

Also, even among otherwise qualified applicants who want to accept the jobs, fully two-thirds normally windup failing a mandatory polygraph test prior to entering on duty.

19,502

Maybe those recruiting woes are part of why the agency winds up sometimes with quality people like Juan David Ortiz, a Border Patrol agent in Texas who is currently trial now for murder, charged with killing four prostitutes.

The government is supposed to have 21,370 border patrol agents, and the Trump administration wanted to hire 5,000 more under this contract in addition to 2,500 at other agencies.

But for every new hire the agency makes during a year, almost two agents leave, according to government data. The latest figures I could find, as of May 2017, suggest that left only 19,500 officers on duty.

Sorry. Assuming the Inspector General is right, then thanks to Accenture, I guess it's now more like 19,502.

Published on: Dec 16, 2018
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