When the Army Corps of Engineers solicited bids for drainage pumps for New Orleans, it copied the specifications - typos and all - from the catalog of the manufacturer that ultimately won the $32 million contract, a review of documents by The Associated Press found.We’ve seen this before:
The pumps, supplied by Moving Water Industries Corp. of Deerfield Beach, Fla., and installed at canals before the start of the 2006 hurricane season, proved to be defective, as the AP reported in March. The matter is under investigation by the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress.
Two other recent deals where MWI received work as a subcontractor also drew controversy.Emphasis mine.
In both projects, district officials discounted complaints from MWI rivals, who said they suspected that pump specifications were skewed to favor MWI.
Last year , when the agency [the South Florida Water Management District] put out a thick volume of requirements for a federally funded flood-control project near Miami International Airport, an engineer for Flowserve, a global pump manufacturer, questioned them. He asked why the district would require contractors to use a costly pump with an unconventional type of motor.
"Flowserve pump division . . . will not be able to bid the project, since the specs as written limit the pump suppliers to 1-2 bidders," Flowserve's John Ondrejack wrote.
On May 10, 2001, the water board handed the $3.1-million project to Murphy Construction Co. of Palm Beach, which named MWI as the pump supplier for the job. The payday for MWI: at least $492,655.14, invoices show.
Last month, it happened again. The water board commissioned a $3.5-million flood protection project in Miami-Dade County with some very specific pump requirements.
One potential bidder, Skip Dorton of Tampa-based Custom Pump & Controls, wrote: "The specification, if left the way it reads, will be, in a sense, a sole source specification that no other manufacturer will be able to compete with."
Another complaint came from FPI, a Pompano Beach pump manufacturer, which called some of the requirements gimmicky and a waste of money.
"It is blatantly obvious to us that the specification has been crafted verbatim by and for one favored pump manufacturer," wrote Robert Purcell, FPI's marketing director. "Your engineering staff has done everything but name their favored supplier."
Purcell is the former MWI vice president who blew the whistle on the company in the Nigeria deal, prompting the U.S. Justice Department to intervene.
When he complained, district engineers countered that all the specifications were appropriate. They awarded the contract to Widell Inc. of Fort Lauderdale -- which then hired MWI to supply the pumps.
When Taylor asked his staff why they repeatedly pushed MWI for various projects, he said the reply was, "These are the people we work with all the time."
Now, these are not US Army Corps of Engineers contracts, although one does use federal funds. However, I wouldn’t be surprised if, right after Katrina, someone from the USACE got a email from Jeb Bush recommending his old friend David Eller and MWI for the job.
We’ve seen that before.
Interestingly, FEMA did something else we’ve seen before in the Carnival Cruise Lines deal. From Rep. Waxman’s letter to Jeb Bush [PDF]:
The Military Sealift Command took over the issuance of the contracts on September 1 and insisted that the contracts be competitively bid. FEMA, however, specified the contract requirements, which included that each ship have enough berths to house 1,000 or more passengers and be available for delivery by September 10. These requirements effectively excluded all bidders except Carnival Cruise Lines and the operators of the Scotia Prince, a ferry ship docked in North Carolina. Out of 13 proposals submitted to the Military Sealift Command, only two met the requirements: the Carnival proposal involving three Carnival ships and the Scotia Prince proposal. Both proposals were accepted.