Democratic Congressmen Elijah Cummings (D-Maryland) and Stacey Plaskett (D-US Virgin Islands) jointly signed a letter addressed to Trey Gowdy as Chairman of the House Oversight Committee Tuesday morning.
They want Gowdy to get some answers about a huge contract to deliver millions of ready to eat meals to Puerto Rican storm survivors that was awarded to a one person company. Thankfully, the contract was pulled after less than three weeks, limiting our overall exposure.
Tiffany Brown admits her company “did not have sufficient funds to finance the project fully” but she swears up and down she wasn’t awarded the $156 million contract through any “hookups” with FEMA. “I got it because I had a very good proposal and understanding of what was needed.”
“Tribute Contracting LLC is registered as a one-employee company with an annual revenue of $1,000 on the government’s Federal Procurement Data System,” CNN reports.
“One of the primary reasons FEMA failed to deliver these meals is because it inexplicably awarded a contract worth approximately $156 million to deliver 30 million emergency meals to a tiny, one-person company with a history of struggling with much smaller contracts,” the lawmakers wrote.
50,000 of the 30 meals were delivered as promised in the contract signed October 3. Ms. Brown insists she held up her end. The only reason there was a problem was because she didn’t get promptly paid for the first batch.
It was FEMA that terminated the agreement, which happened to be “the largest direct meals contract during the 2017 hurricane season.” The reason listed was “due to late delivery of the approved heater meals.”
Brown plans to sue the government for $70 million she claims they still owe her. “Here is what I can say, I’ve had challenges with government contracts in the past. The primary reason is financial resources, and lack of support.”
She invoiced the Federal Emergency Management Agency $255,000 for the first 50,000 meals that had been delivered, on time. The payment, Brown says, was not on time. Without the ability to pay subcontractors she was unable to ramp up production for the next batch.
“They need to really shore up their infrastructure for payment for their contractors. If you want someone to provide a service of $155 million, you really should pay or wire transfer within 24 hours or pay a percentage.”
The government should have been wary of signing the contract in the first place. Contracts were canceled by the federal prison system in both 2013 and 2014. Brown blames “inflated product prices” that did not allow her to make a profit from her original quote. “Sometimes you have to make tough decisions. That’s one of them I had to make.”
After she contracted to produce “3,000 tote bags with US Marine Corps logos,” she got busted by an inspector general investigation for “failing to comply with explicit requirements of the purchase order with regard to both printing and shipping.”
As a result, she was blackballed by the US Government Publishing Office. The government’s online database flags her as “ineligible for contracts for the organization until January 7, 2019.”
That does not affect FEMA though, only the publishing office.
The government says “agencies shall not solicit offers from, award contracts to renew, place new orders with, or otherwise extend the duration of current contracts, or consent to subcontracts in excess of $35,000” with Tribute Contracting.
“No agency in the Executive Branch shall enter into, renew, or extend primary or lower tier covered transactions to a participant or principal determined ineligible unless the head of the awarding agency grants a compelling reasons exception in writing.”
A spokesperson for Rep. Gowdy’s office relates the chairman was taken by surprise with the letter.
“The minority had numerous opportunities to bring this to the attention of both our staff and (the Department of Homeland Security)/FEMA during our discussions and briefings on the hurricane recovery efforts, but they failed to do so until a public letter demanding a subpoena,” communications director Amanda Gonzalez informs.
At least there is one good thing that can be said about all of this, the poor Puerto Rican‘s weren’t left starving.
“While it would be inappropriate to comment on the pending appeal with the contractor in question, FEMA continues to provide meals to survivors in Puerto Rico,” FEMA‘s public affairs director, William Booher, explains. “At the time of the contract termination there were ample commodity supplies in the pipeline, and distribution was not affected.”