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Lawmakers Questioning Border Security Work Done by Private Contractor

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Posted: Mar 27, 2012 11:08 PM

Updated: Mar 28, 2012 7:16 AM

AUSTIN - Your security is up for sale. The state sought out a private contractor to enhance border security. Texas lawmakers said the border was too dangerous, and they needed an emergency contract with a private company to bring in change. The company was just two years old at the time.

Now six years later, some lawmakers say there isn't much proof the millions in taxpayer money spent went to work. They say some of that money went to media guidance, and they're looking for answers.

The state says they used information from Abrams Learning and Information System to increase patrols, add more officers and equipment to the border. The private firm's top man is a retired military member. The company says he's an expert in analysis. The Texas Department of Public Safety hired his company ALIS without looking elsewhere.

State auditors questioned the motive. The company was hired around the same time Governor Rick Perry announced he was seeking re-election. At that same time the state began investing in border security, an investment DPS stands behind today.

A spokesman for the department tells CHANNEL 5 NEWS they hired ALIS to utilize the firm's former military experts.
They needed the company to help create a way for law enforcement agencies to communicate and share information.
They used the military expertise to carry out surge operations.

The experts gathered data from all law enforcement on the border, providing the information they needed to succeed at keeping the border safe. The Texas State Comptroller's office says we've paid ALIS nearly $20 million since 2006. Now some state lawmakers want proof the money wasn't wasted.

"I was troubled as I looked through these contracts about the lack of transparency that seemed to be there. For example, with regard to why the state back in 2006 when it first entered into the contract with Abrams, why they decided to circumvent the state competitive bidding process. They declared an emergency and decided to give it to that one company," says Senator Jose Rodriguez.

When CHANNEL 5 NEWS asked DPS about the decision they said they could not speak for a previous administration.
CHANNEL 5 NEWS got a copy of the last contract with the state law enforcement agency. More than $14,000 in taxpayer dollars went to support public information outreach by providing fact sheets, media guidance, and briefing support.
The department turned down a Border Security Public Outreach Strategy that was suggested by ALIS.

DPS officials say they've never used talking points from the company. ALIS is no longer contracted with the Department of Public Safety.

They are listed as a state vendor though. They now work for Texas Emergency Management Office, which is the same office responsible for hurricane response.

CHANNEL 5 NEWS reached out to the governor's office and Ambrams Learning and Information Systems for comment. The governor's office declined to comment and our calls and emails to ALIS were never returned.

Topics: security, border, military, ALIS, contractor, private, bypass, bidding, state, lawmaker, dps, investigation

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