DECEMBER 09, 2011
A Judicial Watch investigation has uncovered a scandal behind the Department of Labor’s (DOL) wasteful, bilingual smartphone app to help hourly workers “stand up for their rights” and file complaints against employers.
The first-of-its-kind app was announced by the agency in May as an innovative electronic timesheet to help employees independently track the hours they work and determine the wages they are owed. Available in English and Spanish, the app was created to “help empower workers to understand and stand up for their rights when employers have denied their hard-earned pay,” according to Obama Labor Secretary Hilda Solis.
In October JW launched a probe into this questionable use of taxpayer dollars by requesting public records from the DOL relating to the smartphone app. The records reveal that the agency awarded a noncompetitive contract— intended for socially and economically disadvantaged businesses—to a former DOL official who owns a profitable company called Cascades Technologies Inc.
The owner of Cascades Technologies, Alfredo Casta, is a former information technology chief at the DOL, according to records obtained by JW. His company has 87 employees and takes in nearly $10 million in revenue. That means it would not qualify for a noncompetitive government contract, which is strictly reserved for firms owned and controlled at least 51% by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals.
The Small Business Administration, which sets the guidelines, says African-American, Hispanic American, Asian Pacific Americans, Native Americans (American Indians, Eskimos, Aleuts, or Native Hawaiians) and Subcontinent Asian Americans are presumed to be socially disadvantaged.
So far Cascades Technologies has billed the DOL $60,896 for 697 hours of work performed on the phone app, according to records obtained by JW. The DOL has apparently paid nearly $50,000 of the contract so far, the records indicate. The agency admits not having any data establishing a need to develop this app. In other words, a politically-connected entrepreneur needed to increase his profits.
The DOL has launched a number of costly and highly questionable programs since Solis, a former California congresswoman, took over the agency. Last year she appointed 1,000 field investigators to operate a program to protect illegal immigrants in the U.S. workforce. This year she has allocated north of $90 million to help low-income juvenile delinquents and “high-risk” adults with “meaningful job training.”
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