Monday, November 14, 2005

No-bid contracts for schools

In case you -- like me -- missed this NYT article, you should definitely read it. It's amazing but, at this point, depressingly unsurprising. This is the kind of thing that used to drive people crazy with outrage; now we're just used to it.

A no-bid contract was given to a well connected builder of portable buildings to provide classrooms for Mississippi children in the Katrina zone. From the NYT:

...[T]he classrooms cost FEMA nearly $90,000 each, including transportation, according to contracting documents. That is double the wholesale price and nearly 60 percent higher than the price offered by two small Mississippi businesses dropped from the deal.

In addition, the portable buildings were not secured in a concrete foundation, as usually required by state regulations because of safety concerns in a region prone to hurricanes and tornados.

The classroom contract has already prompted a lawsuit from one of the Mississippi companies and a government investigation.

"The fact that natural disasters are not precisely predictable must not be an excuse for careless contracting practices," David E. Cooper from the Government Accountability Office, told Congress recently. In testimony submitted this week, Mr. Cooper said, "We found information in the corps' contract files and from other sources that suggest the negotiated prices were inflated."

There's got to be a special place in Hell for people that profit from catastrophes. I haven't read the Inferno in a few years -- anyone know which ring that was?


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