\n Security firm to pay $18 million settlement

Settlement reached over security guards at Army bases

The Associated Press/July 14, 2007
By John Milburn

A New Mexico security firm has agreed to pay the U.S. government $18 million to settle allegations that it violated terms of a contract to provide trained civilian security guards at eight Army bases, U.S. Attorney Eric Melgren announced Friday.

Akal Security was hired in September 2003 to provide guards at Fort Riley; Fort Lewis, Wash.; Fort Hood, Texas; Fort Campbell, Ky.; Blue Grass Army Depot in Kentucky; Fort Stewart, Ga.; Sunny Point Military Ocean Terminal, N.C.; and Anniston Army Depot in Alabama

Melgren said an investigation indicated that Akal failed to provide as many guards or their proper training as the contract required. The case stemmed from a lawsuit filed on behalf of the federal government by guards who were hired by Akal to work at Fort Riley.

"This settlement sends a clear message to government contractors: There can be no shortcuts," Melgren said. "Private companies hired to protect the security of U.S. Army facilities perform a vital service and they are paid millions of dollars for it."

In reaching the settlement, Justice officials dismissed all outstanding claims.

Akal President Daya Khalsa said the firm was cooperating with the government to uncover any and all discrepancies and was working to strengthen its own training programs to comply with all contracts.

"Akal deeply regrets its failure to initially meet all contract training specifications," Khalsa said in a written statement.

The company agreed to repay the government an initial payment of $8 million and an additional $10 million, plus interest, over four years.

Akal agreed in 2003 to recruit, screen, hire and train 1,800 guards to do security at the Army posts. The company said some of the new guards who failed to get the mandated training were assigned to work. Akal continues to provide guards at seven of the Army installations. A contract for guards at Fort Lewis ended in May.

Government investigators alleged that Akal sought payment for guards it failed to provide and for failing to provide adequate training, including on weapons and garrison-specific skills, such as use of force and administering first aid.

"To get the job, they sign contracts saying they will meet high performance standards. It is essential that they meet those standards. There can be no reduction in the security of our military installations," Melgren said.

Akal, founded in 1981, is one of the largest security companies in the United States and employs 15,000 people worldwide. The company provides security services for federal courthouses, detention facilities and military installations.

The company said it has taken other steps to ensure it is meeting federal contracts, including enhancing training programs and increasing audits of contract compliance.

"We will continue to improve our services and oversight systems, and have worked very hard in the past three years to establish one of the strongest quality programs in the industry," Khalsa said.

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