Shortly after Hurricane Maria devastated the island of Puerto Rico, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) granted a $30 million contract to a Florida-based company. Their job was simple: deliver emergency tarps and plastic sheeting to the island of approximately 3.5 million people. Four weeks later, nada. Because Bronze Star LLC failed to deliver the goods, the botched contract has since been cancelled.
Though Bronze Star LLC was never paid any money, they development is souring nonetheless. Four weeks of inactivity have done nothing to help the island’s approximate 3.5 million citizens rebuild their lives. Furthermore, the resources could have been quite handy in recent weeks, as Puerto Rico has been hit by several dizzying rainstorms. With thousands of people still homeless on Puerto Rico’s streets, many are decrying the government for its slow action.
Based on what we now know, it is unlikely FEMA thoroughly investigated Bronze Star, or its ability to fulfill the contract. Not only was the company founded by two brothers, the $30 million contract was its first — ever. Additionally, the address listed for the business is a single-family home in a residential subdivision.
The Associated Press reports that one of the brothers, Kayon Jones, said the manufacturers he contacted before bidding on the contracts said they could provide the tarps with no problem. But later, they said they could not meet the government’s requirements. Reportedly, supplying the materials was problematic because the majority of the raw materials came from Houston. As you may remember, Houston was hit by Hurricane Harvey in the days preceding Maria.
“The award of a government contract to a company with absolutely no experience in producing the materials sought obviously raises very bright red flags,” Said Dan Feldman, professor of public management at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice at City University of New York. “I would hope and assume that the inspector general for the Department of Homeland Security would begin immediately to take a very hard look at this process.”
On November 6, 2017, FEMA cancelled the contracts with Bronze Star LLC. A few days later, the government notified the brothers that it would seek $9.3 million in damages unless they agreed to sign a waiver that released the U.S. from any liability. Obviously, they agreed. “We were trying to help; it wasn’t about making money or anything like that,” said Jones.
The contracts, which were awarded on October 10, were to provide 500,000 tarps and 60,000 rolls of plastic sheeting. The day after the contract with Bronze Star was cancelled, FEMA restarted the process. A contract has since been awarded to OSC Solutions Inc. to supply plastic sheeting. Reportedly, the company has roughly two decades of federal contracting experience. So far, more than 93,000 tarps have been sent to distribution centers on the island. More supplies are said to follow in the coming weeks.
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