It seems that in the Age of Bush, the military-industrial complex just can’t seem to be bothered to make a decent product as long as it can rely on political connections and influence to keep those contracts coming. In Iraq, the “free market zone” neoconservatives dreamed of:
- KBR (Kellogg, Brown & Root), a subsidiary of Halliburton, tripled the cost of the gas it was supplying the US military and then failed to deliver what it billed for.
- Halliburton itself routinely overcharges for every service it contracts for and doesn’t deliver on half of them. When it does deliver, its service is defective or diseased. For instance, it obtained a $$$billion$$$ contract to provide food and water to the troops in Iraq, then delivered food that was spoiled and water that was contaminated with sewage.
- Custer Battles, a security company with ties to the RNC, received a $$100Mil$$ contract to provide security for the Baghdad airport, already guarded by Army troops, then another $$50M$$ to supply forklifts. It simply painted the forklifts that were already there with its logo and sent in its bill.
- Blackwater, another security company, contracted for more than $$320M$$ to provide escorts for supply convoys and diplomats, and then double-billed for its services, effectively kicking the contract’s worth to almost half a $$$Billion$$$.
- Parsons Corp, one of the largest construction outfits in Iraq, is under investigation by the Army Inspector General for “building only a small fraction of the health clinics planned to be built in Iraq and for building a police academy so flawed that human waste rained from the ceilings.”
Of course, that’s all war-profiteering and has nothing to do with what happens here at home, right?
The Associated Press is reporting that the Army Corps of Engineers may have conspired to pass the contract for the drainage pumps it used in the New Orleans levees to a company that used to employ Jeb Bush.
When the Army Corps of Engineers solicited bids for drainage pumps for New Orleans, it copied the specifications — typos and all — from the catalog of the manufacturer that ultimately won the $32 million contract, a review of documents by The Associated Press found.
The pumps, supplied by Moving Water Industries Corp. of Deerfield Beach, Fla., and installed at canals before the start of the 2006 hurricane season, proved to be defective, as the AP reported in March. The matter is under investigation by the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress.
In a letter dated April 13, Sen. David Vitter, R-La., called on the Corps to look into how the politically connected company got the post-Hurricane Katrina contract. MWI employed former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush,President Bush’s brother, to market its pumps during the 1980s, and top MWI officials have been major contributors to the Republican Party.
The GAO, by the way, is currently being run by one Lorita Doan, the Republican hack who allowed Karl Rove to send one of his minions over to give a political pep-talk to her employees, and then afterwards she told them to “see what we can do for our candidates”. Which is illegal, boys and girls. One has very little faith at this point that a GAO investigation of a company with ties to the Bush family will ever see the light of day unless it’s yet another whitewash.
While copying the specs of a single company in its bid solicitation isn’t illegal, it’s certainly unethical. It serves to slant the bidding process in the direction of that company, effectively ensuring the contract will go to them, in this case even though “[a] May 2006 memo by a Corps inspector working on the project, provided to the AP earlier this year, warned that the pumps were faulty and would not work if needed to remove water during a hurricane”. So sure was MWI that the contract would come to them that they ordered the pumps built before the bidding process had even begun.
The Corps contract officer overseeing the January 2006 bid, Cindy Nicholas, was told about the copied specifications during a conference call with FPI Inc., a Florida company that also bid on the project, shortly after MWI was awarded the contract. A recording of the briefing was provided to the AP by FPI.
“Are you folks aware that the specifications that you folks put out was a copy of the specifications in the MWI catalog?” asked Bob Purcell, who was an FPI salesman at the time the bids were taken.
“No, I’m not aware of that,” Nicholas replied.
Corps official Dan Bradley said during the briefing that consulting engineers had a hand in drawing up the specifications.
Purcell then complained: “We were forced to meet someone else’s specifications in entirety.” He said the consultants did not cooperate with FPI, and he charged that MWI was given “a head’s up” about the job. That, he said, was evident by MWI’s order for pump engines before the contract was even put out to bid.
“I don’t know anything about that, sir,” Nicholas responded.
I bet she didn’t.
In a way, it’s hard to blame MWI. This is, after all, how things are done in the Age of Bush – it’s all what you pay and who you know. But if there had been a severe hurricane this past season, those pumps would have failed and New Orleans could have found itself drowned for the second time in two years.
Maybe that was the idea.
(Link to AP pump story via The Carpetbagger Report)