- Congressman Joel Hefley (R-Colo.)
Congressman Joel Hefley has taken steps to investigate allegations of fraud, waste and abuse in the U.S. missile-defense program, made by a Colorado Springs man who used to work for the program as a civilian contract employee, a representative for Hefley said last week.
But the man who blew the whistle on the alleged abuses, Biff Baker, continues to accuse Hefley of having ignored his concerns.
Baker, a former Army Space Command colonel, says he discovered improper contracting practices in the missile-defense program in late 2001 and early this year, while working as a quality inspector for COLSA Corp., a contractor on the program. Baker, whose story was detailed in the Independent earlier this month ["Rocket Racket," June 13], says his job was to make sure that work performed by missile-defense contractors was being done on time, on budget, and in compliance with contract terms.
In performing that task, Baker says he found several instances of contracts being awarded without competition to a company run by a former high-ranking Army general. Baker claims this violates federal contracting regulations, which require most contracts to be awarded through a competitive bidding process.
In March, shortly after he brought the alleged violations to the attention of the Pentagon's Missile Defense Agency, Baker was fired.
Baker says that upon being fired, he contacted Hefley's office about his concerns but received no response for months. Meanwhile, Sen. Wayne Allard, R-Colo., has said he considers Baker's allegations "very serious" and has asked federal investigators to look into them.
Baker says Hefley's unresponsiveness prompted him to decide to challenge Hefley in this fall's congressional elections. Baker is running as a Libertarian against Hefley, a Republican, who is seeking re-election to the 5th Congressional District.
Now, Hefley -- who declined to comment for the Independent's initial story on Baker's allegations of fraud, waste and abuse -- says he has indeed been diligent in pursuing the matter.
In a letter to Baker, dated June 6, Hefley says he forwarded Baker's initial correspondence to the Department of Defense's Office of the Inspector General, an investigative agency. Hefley also says that contrary to Baker's claims, members of his staff had "made several attempts" to reach Baker by telephone. "Our calls were never returned," Hefley writes in the letter.
"We have done everything that we could" to follow up on Baker's concerns, said Sarah Shelden, a spokeswoman for Hefley, last week.
Baker, however, still maintains he never received any phone calls from Hefley or his staff.
"It never happened," Baker said. "If he made the attempts, I'd like to see his phone logs."
Baker also says he finds it suspicious that he only received a letter from Hefley after the Independent published an article about Baker's allegations. Though Hefley's letter is dated June 6, Baker says he didn't receive it until June 14.
Baker's allegations about improper contracting practices are under investigation by the General Accounting Office, the investigative arm of Congress; and the Missile Defense Agency's office of Internal Management Review.
-- Terje Langeland