Army officials expand Fort Meade investigation Civilian employees alleged fraud, waste

October 17, 1993|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,Staff Writer

Army officials are expanding their probe of fraud and waste at Fort Meade beyond the 89 allegations compiled in a report last year, according to a Defense Department letter sent to two members of Maryland's congressional delegation.

The new probes will target the Directorate of Logistics and the Directorate of Contracting. One of the complaints was phoned in to the Pentagon on a hot line set up to help employees report irregularities.

The two-page letter, which said that only 83 of the 89 allegations had been "addressed," was sent last week to U.S. Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes and Rep. Kweisi Mfume, D-7th District.

Mr. Sarbanes and Mr. Mfume had asked the Inspector General's office at the Department of Defense to look into complaints from civilian employees.

The lawmakers said Army investigators, beginning in November 1992, compiled an 800-page report containing more than 80 charges of fraud, waste, abuse, discrimination and violations of federal environmental laws.

A spokeswoman for the Inspector General's office declined to comment on the case, as did officials from Fort Meade.

But the post's garrison commander, Col. Robert G. Morris III, said in an interview last month that the cases will be reviewed by the FBI and the U.S. Attorney's Office. He said there is no timetable to complete the 10 administrative and seven criminal investigations prompted by the report.

"I've told the civilian employees and the military people that I'm not going to spend a lot of time chasing after you," he said. "If you do something bad, I'm going to catch you."

Lawmakers said the 800-page report deals almost entirely with the Directorate of Public Works, the largest department at Fort Meade, with 374 civilian workers and a budget of $28 million. The allegations range from misappropriated money and property to racism and favoritism, and violations of federal environmental laws.

Numerous other complaints have come from the Directorate of Logistics, which has 317 civilian employees and a $2.6 million budget. About 1,200 civilian workers are employed at Fort Meade as part of the garrison, not including the more than 20,000 at the top-secret National Security Agency.

The letter signed by Deputy Inspector General Derek J. Vander Schaaf said allegations concerning the Directorate of Logistics "were not previously investigated" and says the Inspector General for the Department of the Army has been asked to review the complaints.

"We will maintain oversight on the inquiry to ensure it is conducted in a thorough and objective manner," the letter says, adding that the conclusions will be forwarded to Mr. Sarbanes.

Two of the additional complaints in the Directorate of Logistics also will be investigated, the letter says, without naming them.

The complaint involving the Directorate of Contracting involves contracting irregularities. The investigation could include an audit, the letter says.

The letter says 83 of the 89 complaints in the Directorate of Public Works have been addressed, but it does not say how or when public action may be taken. Mr. Vander Schaaf did say, however, that the Department of the Army "had responded appropriately to the employee allegations."

Bruce Frame, a spokesman for Mr. Sarbanes, said he knew no more about the allegations involving Fort Meade than what was included in the letter.

Colonel Morris briefed aides to Maryland lawmakers in Washington in August, but several officials said no specifics were given.

A civilian worker has written to congressional representatives complaining that millions of dollars are missing from various departments at Fort Meade. The letter was obtained by The Sun.

The employee alleges that a training support center lost $250,000 "and has failed to account for several million dollars in training devices;" the DRM [Directorate of Resource Management] has lost thousands of dollars in property; and the Directorate of Public Works has "covered up thousands of dollars in credit card purchases, losses of inventory and misappropriation of purchase orders."

Colonel Morris said he is unsure how much information will be released to the public, but said his spokesman, Julius Simms, will develop "a public relations strategy."

"Just keep in the back of your mind that this is serious, serious business," the colonel said. "And some of the people [could] go to jail. We're at the level of prosecution where serious offenses, I think, have occurred.

"And remember, everyone has due process, even the people you would describe in quotes as 'bad guys,' " Colonel Morris said. "I would be remiss if I didn't ensure their rights were protected."

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