NEW ORLEANS - 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.
You can bet that if a homeowner is getting Road Home money, received FEMA money to try and live in an apartment in Atlanta, and applied for an SBA loan to help begin to repair their lives that the government would be all over that - loading even more paperwork into the bloated bureaucracy.
Getting the correct pumps to keep the people of New Orleans safe, not so much.
But it gets even better:
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.So someone told MWI that they were getting the pump contract. Wonder who?
"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. She said that if MWI ordered the engines ahead of time, "they took a big risk."
"Obviously it was a risk that paid off, let’s put it that way. They must have had some assurance!" Purcell exclaimed.