Baltimore, as anyone who enjoyed David Simon’s masterful television crime drama “The Wire” can attest, is no shining example of honesty and integrity. The city has long had a well-earned reputation for dysfunction and petty corruption.
Which raises the question of why the federal government is awarding millions of dollars in contracts to a company so corrupt it is banned from from from doing any business whatsoever with the city of Balitmore.
The company, Investment Management Enterprise (IME), billed Baltimore for hours its employees didn’t work. In one case, an invoice for 57 hours of work magically became one for 845 hours.
In February, the company company pleaded guilty to theft. CEO Twyla Garrett repaid $160,000 in wrongful billings. As part of the plea deal, prosecutors dropped criminal charges against Garrett.
In May, Baltimore banned the company from any contracts for five years, which seems like a reasonable course of action for someone that inflated their billings by nearly 1,400%.
Amazingly, however, this same company, while in the midst of criminal proceedings against it and its CEO for flagrant fraud, has been receiving new federal contracts worth millions of dollars.
For example, in January 2016 – six months after Garrett was indicted – the Department of Health and Human Services awarded IME a $1.5 million contract for “Auditing Services.”
Since Baltimore began investigating the firm, it’s been awarded over $2 million in federal contracts, including from the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Energy and the Department of Veterans Affairs. In addition, IME has had contracts with the State Department, Defense Department, and Department of the Interior.
It really makes you wonder whether there is any vetting at all when these extremely lucrative contracts are awarded. Again, this is a company that Balitmore has deemed to corrupt to do business with.
Garrett, for her part, is undeterred.
On her personal blog, she lists an article purportedly in Forbes magazine about her business. The link goes to “Forbes Custom,” a website that allows anyone to publish content under the Forbes banner for a fee.
In the article, Garrett writes she is “too busy looking forward to the next chapter of her thriving entrepreneurial kingdom to celebrate past achievements. Resting on her laurels just isn’t in this serial entrepreneur’s nature.”
“We will now be adapting our services and products to the needs of every federal agency,” she adds.
That sounds worrying, given her track record.
Other promotional materials Garrett has issued list her business at $25 million in revenue. She also describes how she learned the ins and outs of federal contracting as a federal government employee in contracting.
Whether you believe that Garrett has succeeded in conning governments to pay her $25 million a year, she’s definitely gotten far, far further than she should have. And if there were adequate controls on who is awarded a contract, she never would have.
There’s plenty of controversial topics in politics. Whether a company convicted of flagrant fraud in Baltimore should be awarded millions in federal contracts should not be one of them. In the future, let’s hope there is a process to avoid this mistake. For now, make sure IME or any other corrupt companies doesn’t get another dime of taxpayers’ hard earned dollars.