Lessons to Learn From Still-Unfolding Navy Contract Scandal

By Carol L. O’Riordan

In late January, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) announced that his Oversight and Government Reform Committee has opened an investigation into a still-unfolding U.S. Navy contracting scandal involving allegations involving sex and bribery.

The scandal centers upon Glenn Defense Marine Asia, a Singapore-based firm that resupplied and serviced Navy vessels throughout Asia. The company’s CEO, Leonard Glenn Francis, a Malaysian native, was arrested last September on federal corruption charges in a sting operation.

Navy Secretary Ray Mabus has pledged to get to the bottom of the scandal and has pointed out that the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) was the agency that initially uncovered the wrongdoing. However, a senior NCIS agent has pleaded guilty in the scandal to giving key law-enforcement information to Francis in exchange for prostitutes and cash.

Mabus has noted that since he took office in 2009, the Navy has suspended 252 contractors and debarred 400. More than 120 of the debarments were for more than three years. In 2013, the Navy’s Acquisition Integrity Office has terminated 11 contractors for various infractions.

There are many lessons to be drawn from this and similar government procurement scandals. One is that a government agency or a corporation can harbor a wrongdoer at the very top, or somewhere within its ranks – and that either way, a “bad apple” can do incalculable harm to a company’s reputation, its ability to obtain government contracts, or even its very existence.

Someone’s fine reputation, or an employee’s length of service at the corporation, don’t mean that the person isn’t susceptible to being a bad actor. Companies and agencies need to follow all leads and all suspicions to make sure that they are not blindsided by an unethical employee.

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