WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill, the top-ranking Democrat on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, today released a Committee Minority staff report detailing significant failures by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in the contracting process for emergency tarps and sheeting during the devastating 2017 hurricane season. Tarps and sheeting are essential tools in post-hurricane operations that can often allow people to remain in their homes rather than being forced to relocate.
“Once again we’ve seen massive contracts awarded to individuals and companies that would seem to have no capacity to deliver,” McCaskill said. “Trying to do significant contracting work during an unprecedented hurricane season is certainly difficult, but what we saw with these contracts was a failure to safeguard tax dollars and a failure to deliver desperately needed goods and services to Americans, many of whom are still dealing with the devastating effects of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria.”
The report’s key findings include:
- FEMA did not adequately use prepositioned contracts for emergency tarps and sheeting. For the 2017 hurricanes, FEMA awarded 14 contracts for emergency tarps and sheeting totaling $206.9 million. FEMA made three of the 14 awards under prepositioned contracts, collectively worth $7.3 million, only 3.5% of the total value of the contracts. The remaining 11 awards—worth a combined $199.6 million—were made under new contracts competed after the 2017 hurricane season began. Prepositioned contracts allow FEMA to maximize competition, conduct market research, and thoroughly evaluate prospective contractors’ qualifications and proposals.
- FEMA awarded over $73 million in contracts for plastic tarps and sheeting to two contractors with no relevant past performance, one of which had existed for two months and the other which had registered as a federal government contractor the month prior to winning the award. FEMA did not take appropriate steps to assess the contractors’ capabilities and ultimately canceled contracts with both companies due to their failure to deliver.
- FEMA’s bid process did not ensure adequate competition. FEMA provided short timeframes for the bid process – as short as two hours – potentially negatively impacting competition.
READ THE REPORT: Government Oversight: Failures in FEMA Contracting for Emergency Tarps and Sheeting During the 2017 Hurricane Season
McCaskill has made contracting oversight a priority in the aftermath of the devastating 2017 hurricane season. She recently revealed that a $156 million cancelled contract for providing 30 million meals to Puerto Rico included misrepresentations and apparently extensive plagiarism. McCaskill has also repeatedly called for answers over the Whitefish contract in Puerto Rico, writing to FEMA asking for additional information on the agency’s role in the contract. McCaskill previously joined Committee Chairman Ron Johnson of Wisconsin to call for an investigation from the Department of Homeland Security Inspector General into the Whitefish contract. She also wrote to the Army Corps of Engineers about nearly $1 billion it is awarding to contractors for repairing the electrical grid in Puerto Rico.