The federal contracting controversies associated with the relief efforts for Hurricane Maria have been shrouded in debate and scrutiny. In the latest chapter, several media reports revealed that a small consulting firm out of Atlanta failed to deliver on a $156 million proposal with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to provide 30 million meals to Puerto Rico–impacted by 2017’s super storms.
Instead, Tiffany Brown–the self-employed leader of Tribute Contracting out of Atlanta–only managed to deliver 50,000 meals by a deadline that demanded the delivery of 18.5 million meals.
And, to make matters worst, Tribute’s meals were out of contract specifications upon delivery to their locations.
According to a syndicated New York Times report on the topic, FEMA’s demands called for Tribute to deliver “self-heating” meals for consumption; however, the meals lacked the self-heating devices needed to warm the meals (of which were freeze-dried for shipping purposes).
“Do not ship another meal. Your contract is terminated,” a FEMA contracting officer wrote to Brown. “This is a logistical nightmare.” Brown willingly provided the Times with a copy of the email. FEMA officials revealed to CNBC online that only $255,000 was paid out to Tribute for the work that was completed.
Now, Democrats in Congress are now asking questions about what could’ve gone wrong.
In a letter to House Oversight and Government Reform Committee chair Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), Democratic Reps. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), and Stacey Plaskett (D-Virgin Islands) called for an inquiry into the contract.
“It is difficult to fathom how FEMA could have believed that this tiny company had the capacity to perform this $156 million contract,” Cummings and Plaskett wrote.
They go on to point out that Tribute has failed to perform with other, much smaller federal contracts in the past and are astonished that Brown was able to obtain an agreement of this magnitude.
The New York Times was the first outlet to break the story. In their coverage, they noted that Brown had no prior experience in large-scale disaster relief efforts.
“She also explained that FEMA knew that she could not independently finance the production of this many meals in this short timeframe,” the letter said. “She subcontracted to two companies … but both stopped producing meals when they did not receive payment in a timely manner.”
The letter pointed out Tribute’s contracting history, citing information from crucial information systems that track that data. The history, isn’t pretty, according to the letter. Turning Point News conducted our analysis of the history referenced in the letter and confirmed that the House Democrats were correct.
Tribute has worked on several federal contracts in the past for several agencies; however, the firm’s performance has been lackluster at best. To note, the most significant contract that Tribute Contracting LLC maintained was for $1,196,980 in 2015. Then in 2017-2018, a significant spike in their federal contracting activity jumped to the near-$156 million number.
The letter also brought to light other concerns regarding other FEMA contracting failures that have cost billions as a part of the Trump Administration’s response to the humanitarian crises in Puerto Rico.
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