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Four no-bid contracts to be re-bid: in February, when almost done

A month ago FEMA promised to re-bid some of the no-bid contracts awarded after Katrina. They've yet to do that for four of the biggest contracts involving: the Shaw Group, Bechtel Corporation, CH2M Hill and Fluor Corporation. Those are for temporary housing and are worth about $400 million.
The DHS says they won't re-open those contracts until February, by which time they'll be nearing completion.

...The disclosure dismayed some lawmakers and business groups that believe the Bush administration has not done enough to ensure Katrina contracts are spread around. In particular, they say small and minority-owned businesses in the Gulf Coast have been shortchanged.
FEMA promised to boost the number of contracts given to minority-owned businesses but in the last month the percentage has increased only slightly, from 1.5 percent to 1.8 percent of the $3.1 billion awarded. That's still well below the 5 percent of federal contracts normally set aside for minority-owned firms.
"FEMA's performance falls far short," said Mississippi Rep. Bennie Thompson, ranking Democrat on the House Homeland Security Committee. "The federal government must make a major shift in both policy and implementation if the lives of the people of the Gulf Coast are to be effectively rebuilt and restored."

Auditing federal contracts difficult; no central database

From the AP report "With U.S. Katrina aid, tracing money isn't easy":

Trying to track who is getting what portion of the billions of dollars in federal Hurricane Katrina aid is enough to give any auditor a headache - and is a problem that critics say creates alarming gaps in public oversight.
The database of contracts is incomplete, information released by federal agencies is spotty and sporadic, and disclosure of many no-bid contracts is not required by law.
...Under federal election law, a click of a mouse traces every campaign donation. Yet no comprehensive public database exists for federal contracts.
...Federal law requires that agencies disclose contract awards, typically by one of two government-sponsored databases. Through loopholes, waivers of contract rules and technical glitches, information is omitted or can go unreported for months.
...The omissions since Katrina struck include a $236 million contract with Carnival Cruise Lines to provide housing for evacuees that legislators have criticized as wasteful, and open-ended contracts with Intelsat and Bechtel Corp. awarded partly because of their previous relationships with the government...
...An audit by the Government Accountability Office last month found that the primary database, known as the Federal Procurement Data System, was inaccurate and incomplete. GAO said that there were repeated delays by the Pentagon in switching to a new system that would allow the department to report its awards in real time.
Scott Amey, the general counsel of the Project on Government Oversight, said that his group compiled its own database of contractors with a history of spending waste or other misconduct, and said that some of the culprits - politically connected Fluor, Bechtel and Halliburton - were among the biggest initial winners of Katrina contracts...

FEMA to re-bid $400 million in contracts; NYT bias

Speaking before a Senate panel, David Paulison, acting head of FEMA, says they're going to get new bids on $400 million worth of contracts:

"It sure looks, with hindsight, that FEMA would have been in a much better position if it had had a lot of contracts in place that had been bid that were standby contracts to provide exactly the kind of services that FEMA rushed in to provide on a no-bid basis," Mr. Lieberman said. He said "taxpayers may have ended up paying more money" than they should have.

Partial good news, although:

Critics said they welcomed the decision to reconsider the deals, but questioned why the effort did not include some no-bid contracts awarded by the Army Corps of Engineers.

Now, let's take a look at New York Times bias:

The four contracts up for rebidding were awarded early last month to The Shaw Group of Baton Rouge, La., Fluor Corporation of Aliso Viejo, Calif., Bechtel National of San Francisco and CH2M Hill of Denver. They have already won commitments from FEMA for a total of $125 million in work, identifying sites for trailers and mobile homes for Hurricane Katrina evacuees and then installing the housing across Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.
Government watchdog groups have been raising questions from the moment these contracts were awarded. The Shaw Group's lobbyist is Joe M. Allbaugh, the former FEMA director and a friend of President Bush. Bechtel has ties to the Republican Party; George Shultz, the former secretary of state under President Ronald Reagan, is on the corporation's board, and Riley P. Bechtel, the chairman and chief executive, served on President Bush's Export Council.

What they consistently forget to tell their readers is that the head of the Shaw Group used to head the Louisiana Democratic Party.

NYT questions no-bid rebuilding contracts

A detailed accounting of some of the fed money spent on cleanup and rebuilding is available, the NYT reports in Many Contracts for Storm Work Raise Questions.
There were 15 contracts over $100 million, and five of those were over $500 million.
And, more than 80% of FEMA $1.5 billion in contracts were no-bid or with limited bidding.

Already, questions have been raised about the political connections of two major contractors - the Shaw Group and Kellogg, Brown & Root, a subsidiary of Halliburton - that have been represented by the lobbyist Joe M. Allbaugh, President Bush's former campaign manager and a former leader of FEMA.

Lest you get the impression that these connections are just Republican, recall that the head of the Shaw Group recently quit has head of the Louisiana Democratic Party.

CH2M Hill and the Fluor Corporation, two global engineering companies awarded a total of $250 million in contracts, were previously cited by regulators for safety violations at a weapons plant cleanup.
The Bechtel Corporation, awarded a contract that could be worth $100 million, is under scrutiny for its oversight of the "Big Dig" construction project in Boston. And Kellogg, Brown & Root, which was given $60 million in contracts, was rebuked by federal auditors for unsubstantiated billing from the Iraq reconstruction and criticized for bills like $100-per-bag laundry service. All of the companies have publicly defended their performance...
Rapidly buying the goods and services needed to respond to an emergency is difficult for any government agency. Federal contracting rules allow agencies to approve deals without standard competitive bidding in "urgent and compelling circumstances."
To provide some safeguards, federal agencies can hold an open competition in advance for products routinely needed in emergencies. Such agreements are known as "indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity," or I.D.I.Q. contracts.
The Defense Department relied on that type of contract in assigning Kellogg, Brown & Root to perform more than $45 million in repairs to levees in New Orleans and military facilities in the gulf region...

Reuters offers a shorter rewrite of this in "Katrina clean-up work under scrutiny".

More on Bush using Katrina to drive down wages

There's a timeline and a CNN transcript here dealing with Bush using Katrina to take the opportunity to drive down American wages.
See also this excerpt from 9/21's Lou Dobbs show.

Jesse Jackson informs us that the looting isn't over

No, not as long as Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, Howard Dean, and the rest of the Democrats are in charge the looting will continue. However, in "Hurricane looting not over yet", the Right Rev is concerned with the more Republican form of looting:

...Already Halliburton is on hand with a no-bid contract for reconstruction.

Actually, I think what they're doing is covered by a pre-existing contract.

...Fluor, Bechtel, the Shaw Group -- Republican-linked firms -- are lining up for contracts. Lobbyists like Joe Allbaugh, close friend of George Bush, and James Lee Witt, close friend of Bill Clinton -- both former heads of the Federal Emergency Management Agency -- are advising their corporate clients to get teams on the scene. Normal rules of contracting and competition are being waived in the emergency. Big bucks are on the table. It is a time to be wired politically.

Actually, the Shaw Group appears to have some Democratic connections...

The ideologues are in the hunt, too. Newt Gingrich is circulating memos calling for turning the region into a massive enterprise zone, slashing corporate taxes, reducing regulations. The oil lobby is pushing for drilling in Alaska and off the shores of the United States. Right wing activist Grover Norquist calls for cutting taxes on the wealthy even more to stimulate the economy. Arizona Republican Rep. Jeff Flak [sic, appropriately enough it's "Flake"] suggests conservatives use the crisis to try out their favorite ideas -- vouchers for education and health care...
The Bush administration's inaction and indifference after Katrina hit abandoned the poor and added to their suffering. It would be tragic now if action by the Republican Congress and the Bush administration added to the misery...

He does have some semi-good ideas, like reviving the pseudo-socialistic Civilian Construction and Conservation Corps. The problem, of course, is that behind the good ideas flows a river of race-baiting and Democratic looting.

"Firms with Bush ties snag Katrina deals"

Reuters:

Companies with ties to the Bush White House and the former head of FEMA are clinching some of the administration's first disaster relief and reconstruction contracts in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
At least two major corporate clients of lobbyist Joe Allbaugh, President George W. Bush's former campaign manager and a former head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, have already been tapped to start recovery work along the battered Gulf Coast.
One is Shaw Group Inc. and the other is Halliburton Co. subsidiary Kellogg Brown and Root. Vice President Dick Cheney is a former head of Halliburton...

See also "Halliburton taps $500 million Katrina contract; Allbaugh connection".

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