Obama rewards Dem donor

Hypocrisy at its finest.

Despite President Obama’s long history of criticizing the Bush administration for “sweetheart deals” with favored contractors, the Obama administration this month awarded a $25 million federal contract for work in Afghanistan to a company owned by a Democratic campaign contributor without entertaining competitive bids, Fox News has learned.

The contract, awarded on Jan. 4 to Checchi & Company Consulting, Inc., a Washington-based firm owned by economist and Democratic donor Vincent V. Checchi, will pay the firm $24,673,427 to provide “rule of law stabilization services” in war-torn Afghanistan.

A synopsis of the contract published on the USAID Web site says Checchi & Company will “train the next generation of legal professionals” throughout the Afghan provinces and thereby “develop the capacity of Afghanistan’s justice system to be accessible, reliable, and fair.”

The legality of the arrangement as a “sole source,” or no-bid, contract was made possible by virtue of a waiver signed by the USAID administrator. “They cancelled the open bid on this when they came to power earlier this year,” a source familiar with the federal contracting process told Fox News.

“That’s kind of weird,” said another source, who has worked on “rule of law” issues in both Afghanistan and Iraq, about the no-bid contract to Checchi & Company. “There’s lots of companies and non-governmental organizations that do this sort of work.”

Answers are being sought, while the administration spins the renewal factor.

Joseph A. Fredericks, director of public information at USAID, told Fox News the Checchi deal was actually a renewal of an existing contract, awarded in 2004 by the Bush administration after a competitive bid process. “As the incumbent,” Fredericks wrote in an e-mail Monday, “Checchi was rewarded a renewed contract to allow for work on the ground to continue.”

Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., the ranking Republican on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said Fox News’ reporting on the no-bid contract in this case “disturbed” him.

Issa has written to USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah requesting that the agency “produce all documents related to the Checchi contract” on or before Feb. 5. Citing the waiver that enabled USAID to award the contract on a no-bid basis, Issa noted that the exemption was intended to speed up the provision of services in a crisis environment.

Yet “on its face,” wrote Issa to Shah, “the consulting contract awarded to Checchi to support the Afghan justice system does not appear to be so urgent or attendant to an immediate need so as to justify such a waiver.”

Presented with Fredericks’s explanation — that the Checchi contract was extended, this time on a no-bid basis, in order to “allow for work on the ground to continue” — Issa was undeterred in his determination to investigate the matter.

“It’s hard to say that this organization (Checchi and Company) has done such a great job of bringing the justice system in Afghanistan up to snuff that they should somehow not have to go through a competitive bidding process,” Issa said.

Likewise, Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., who chairs the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee‘s Subcommittee on Contracting Oversight, told Fox News she, too, is seeking answers about the Checchi contract. “Sen. McCaskill is actively looking into this situation,” said Maria Speiser, a spokeswoman for the senator. “She has posed questions to USAID about the situation and is pursuing full answers. If she doesn’t get answers, she’ll be ready to take action.”

Guess it was all talk from Barack Hussein Obama.

As a candidate for president in 2008, then-Sen. Obama frequently derided the Bush administration for the awarding of federal contracts without competitive bidding.

“I will finally end the abuse of no-bid contracts once and for all,” the senator told a Grand Rapids audience on Oct. 2. “The days of sweetheart deals for Halliburton will be over when I’m in the White House.”

Those remarks echoed an earlier occasion, during a candidates’ debate in Austin, Texas on Feb. 21, when Mr. Obama vowed to upgrade the government’s online databases listing federal contracts.

“If (the American people) see a bridge to nowhere being built, they know where it’s going and who sponsored it,” he said to audience laughter, “and if they see a no-bid contract going to Halliburton, they can check that out too.”

Less than two months after he was sworn into office, President Obama signed a memorandum that he claimed would “dramatically reform the way we do business on contracts across the entire government.”

Flanked by aides and lawmakers at the Dwight D. Eisenhower Executive Office Building on March 4, Obama vowed to “end unnecessary no-bid and cost-plus contracts,” adding: “In some cases, contracts are awarded without competition….And that’s completely unacceptable.”

The March 4 memorandum directed the Office of Management and Budget to “maximize the use of full and open competition” in the awarding of federal contracts. (Source: Fox News)

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