Watchdog: Border protection spent $5M on unnecessary polygraph tests

Watchdog: Border protection spent $5M on unnecessary polygraph tests
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U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) spent $5 million on polygraph exams for job applicants who should have been deemed unqualified, according to a report from the Department of Homeland Security's Office of Inspector General. 

The report analyzed a sample of 380 polygraph tests that were administered during the 2013-2016 fiscal years. 

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Twenty percent of applicants from the sample had made statements during the pre-polygraph exam interview that should have disqualified them from taking the exam. 

The CBP's own data said that 2,300 applicants had admitted to activities such as illegal drug use, drug smuggling and human trafficking before taking a polygraph.

The tests cost taxpayers $2,200 each. 

CBP responded to the report saying the sample drawn by the inspector general's office "lacked sufficient information to make a suitability determination prior to polygraph testing," adding that the methodology could have resulted in "overstatement of the 2,300 cases and $5.1 million." 

CBP also said removing an applicant after a failed polygraph exam is more time sensitive. 

"While removing candidates from the process prior to the delivery of the polygraph may appear to save money, it could add time to the hiring process since removing an applicant for a failed polygraph exam is, many times, done more quickly than making a suitability determination, which may require extensive correspondence related to derogatory information," CBP said. 

However, the agency said it will conduct a review to examine the effects of implementing an in-person pre-security interview on their hiring process.