Screeners Up Rates for U.S.
Mon Aug 26,
5:55 PM ET
By LESLIE MILLER, Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) - Some private companies that
screen airline passengers are charging more for
their services now that the government is footing
the bill, says a federal report that found one
company nearly doubled its rates.
The Transportation Department's inspector general
also found cases where the companies billed the
government for absent employees and work that was
never completed. And it found lax oversight by
Before Sept. 11, private companies had contracts
with airlines to screen passengers and their
carry-on bags. After the terrorist attacks,
Congress created the Transportation Security
Administration, which was ordered to take over the
contracts, worth $1.6 billion, and to hire a
federal work force to assume passenger screening
duties in more than 400 airports by Nov. 19.
According to Alexis Stefani, the Transportation
Department's assistant inspector general for
auditing, the companies raised their rates for
labor and overhead when the government started
paying the bills in February. One company nearly
doubled its overhead rate to $28 an hour and
raised employee pay from $10 to $14.
The inspector general's staff visited six
unidentified contractors at two undisclosed
airports and found no government supervision while
contractor employees arrived late, left early and
signed in as though they worked an entire shift.
"We saw virtually no onsite monitoring of
screener contractors by TSA employees," the
A separate review by the TSA discovered
"internal controls were not followed,
contractors billed TSA for employees who were on
vacation, and TSA was overcharged for services not
performed," the inspector general said in the
report issued earlier this month.
Kenneth Quinn, an attorney representing several
screening companies, said the higher costs are
justified. He said security screeners were vastly
underpaid before Sept. 11 because of pressure from
the airlines to reduce costs.
Now, he said, "you need to make sure you're
paying people adequately so they don't bolt
knowing that they'll be out of a job" when
the federal work force is in place.
Quinn also said the government appears to be doing
a good job of supervising the companies and their
screeners. "From my vantage point the TSA has
provided fairly active oversight," said
Quinn, who cited a confidentiality agreement in
declining to identify his clients.
The TSA did not return repeated calls seeking
Rep. John Mica ( news, bio, voting record),
R-Fla., chairman of the House Aviation
Subcommittee, said higher pay is understandable
but charging for services not performed is not.
"We cannot tolerate fraudulent billing,"
Mica said. "We'll have to track it down and
conduct our proper oversight."
The government was supposed to negotiate prices
and terms with the screening contractors after
taking over the contracts six months ago, but
hasn't done so yet, the inspector general said.
The TSA instead awarded so-called 'letter
contracts' to the companies, which don't spell out
The agency is in the midst of hiring about 30,000
screeners. As of Tuesday, screeners who work for
the federal government were on the job in 37 of
the 424 airports that will have federal workers.
Many of the privately employed screeners are
getting jobs as federal screeners, earning between
$23,600 and $35,400 a year plus health insurance,
retirement benefits and paid leave. As
private-sector screeners they generally earned
about $10,000 a year, and often received no
Some, though, can't meet the government's higher
standards: They must be U.S. citizens with a high
school diploma or one year of experience in a job
that shows they can perform the security work.
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