American Oversight on Wednesday sent letters to the inspectors general for the Department of Homeland Security and the Army Corp of Engineers, calling for investigations into troubling practices related to contracts for the construction of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Legal filings and recent reporting by the Texas Tribune and ProPublica have revealed that the government awarded contracts for construction on land it did not yet own, then in court used penalties incurred by delays to push for expediting the seizure of private land.
According to the Tribune and ProPublica, since 2017 the government “has awarded at least a dozen contracts in South Texas worth more than $2 billion prior to obtaining all the land it needed for the projects.”
But additional costs from the delays in construction thanks to those premature contracts are being passed on to taxpayers — sometimes to the tune of tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars per day, according to government testimony in related eminent domain cases. In those cases, the government cited affidavits from Customs and Border Protection officials about the costs of delaying the project as a reason to successfully push for immediate land seizure, creating a kind of Catch-22 for landowners in which they are expected to turn over their land because the government’s plans assumed it would be acquired.
“Taxpayers and private landowners are being forced to bear the brunt of the government’s flawed strategy,” American Oversight noted in the letter to the inspectors general. And as American Oversight Executive Director Austin Evers told the Tribune and ProPublica, “American taxpayers are seeing their money thrown away for no purpose because the government signed the contract before it could execute the project.”
In December 2018, our investigations into how the administration was spending taxpayer money on President Donald Trump’s favorite political rallying cry found that no significant progress had been made, revealing the border wall to be merely a rhetorical tool. As the lame-duck administration ramps up its poorly planned efforts to build a barrier, we’re requesting that the offices investigate wasteful spending related to such contracts — and why the government hasn’t terminated them.
Part of Investigation: