WASHINGTON – U.S. Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Ranking Member Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Federal Spending Oversight Subcommittee Ranking Member Gary Peters of Michigan, and Regulatory Affairs and Federal Management Subcommittee Ranking Member Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota revealed that the $156 million cancelled contract for providing 30 million meals to Puerto Rico included misrepresentations and apparently extensive plagiarism. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recently cancelled its contract with Tribute Contracting, LLC after Tribute only delivered 50,000 of the 30 million meals. The Senators are calling for answers on how FEMA vetted the contractor and why the contract was awarded in the first place.
“This contract appears to be further evidence of systemic weaknesses in FEMA’s contracting practices,” the Senators wrote. “We are concerned that without proper policies and procedures in place to evaluate prospective contractors’ capacity, we will continue to see disaster relief contracts fail unnecessarily, at the expense of both taxpayers and hurricane survivors.”
Federal procurement records indicate that the government had previously cancelled contracts with Tribute, and an inspector general report had found that Tribute “altered and submitted a false shipping document” in a previous contract. While these facts alone raise questions over why FEMA awarded Tribute a $156 million contract to deliver 30 million meals to Puerto Rico, the Senators also revealed major plagiarism and misrepresentations in the contracting proposal. The Senators discovered that “the overwhelming majority of Tribute’s 9-page proposal appears to be plagiarized from several sources readily available on the internet.”
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The Senators also revealed that the contractor incorrectly claimed to have a pre-established partnership with C.H. Robinson, one of the largest third party logistics companies. However, C.H. Robinson told Committee staff that it did not and does not have a partnership with Tribute—and that Tribute had only communicated with C.H. Robinson three days after the FEMA contract was signed to request a shipping quote.
The Senators wrote to FEMA detailing their findings and requesting details about how it evaluated the Tribute contact proposal and the current status of the contract, including how much FEMA has paid to Tribute. “Troublingly, FEMA does not appear to have verified many of the representations made in Tribute’s proposal,” the Senators said. “We are concerned that FEMA is not taking appropriate steps to evaluate vendors’ qualifications before awarding contracts to provide critical disaster relief supplies.” The Senators are requesting copies of the contract and answers to their questions by March 15.
Read the Senators’ letter to FEMA HERE.