FEMA faulted for failed contracts to deliver hurricane aid
A new investigation by Democrats on the United States Senate Committee on Oversight has found that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) was unable to produce evidence of suppliers’ capacity to deliver when it distributed contracts. In the case of many inhabitants of Puerto Rico, these promised hurricane supplies have yet to arrive, months after a state of emergency was declared.
One of the more startling examples is that of Global Computers. A company registered as a federal government contractor in September, it received its FEMA contract for tarp delivery (in the total sum of $33.9 million) only a month later. Five weeks after that, it had still failed to produce a single tarp. FEMA was obliged to cancel Global Computers’ contract under the circumstances, and a new company had to be found. Several other organizations found themselves in similar positions, including Bronze Star — another nascent institution formed just shy of two months before the bidding on FEMA’s contracts took place.
Senator Claire McCaskill (D) of Missouri called the contracts “a failure to safeguard tax dollars and a failure to deliver desperately needed goods and services.” What doubts had previously existed about Trump’s reaction time to the Hurricane can now only be compounded by this further failure.
Part of the failure lies as well with FEMA’s recovery plan for “the inevitable big one,” in Puerto Rico, written in 2014, which suggested that the response would make its way into “recovery mode” in a single month. Now, just over half a year later, it’s truly started to do so. Whatever research FEMA made into which companies would be capable of providing adequate tarps and other survival supplies in 2014, however, the business landscape shifted thereafter as new claimants like Bronze Star and Global Computers registered as government contractors. FEMA’s big failure here was a lack of research commitment into the capabilities of these new organizations. The lesson for the future is a few extra hours of scrutiny could save regions in crisis from months of extra recovery time.