WASHINGTON (CN) – A new law requiring that the Federal Emergency Management Agency investigate how it awarded lucrative contracts to a company which botched the delivery of emergency supplies to victims of Hurricane Maria, has passed.
The legislation, proposed by Rep. Sean Maloney, D-New York, was couched within the Federal Aviation Administration’s reauthorization bill which President Donald Trump signed into law on Oct. 5.
Maloney’s bill requires the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general to investigate Bronze Star LLC, a Florida-based business that won over $30 million in FEMA contracts after Hurricane Maria ravaged Puerto Rico in 2017.
Bronze Star LLC was hired by FEMA to distribute emergency tarps and sheeting for destroyed homes on the island but FEMA cancelled the contract before it had even paid them.
The deal was eventually renewed but the initial debacle delayed the supply delivery to desperate people in Puerto Rico for four weeks.
During a congressional oversight hearing in April, Democratic lawmakers said FEMA failed to investigate the professional backgrounds of prospective suppliers, including Bronze Star.
Roughly a half dozen organizations submitted a bid but FEMA has since refused to provide any information about the competing bidder identities or details on the bids themselves.
FEMA did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Tuesday.
In the end, FEMA purchased half a million tarps and 60,000 rolls of plastic sheeting from the St. Cloud, Florida company despite the fact that the company had never fulfilled a single government contract, let alone delivered tarps and sheeting.
Bronze Star LLC did not immediately respond to request for comment Tuesday but in the past, owner Kayon Jones told the Associated Press that the original FEMA contract was cancelled because of the raw materials needed were coming out of Houston, Texas.
Houston had only recently been hit by Hurricane Harvey at the time, Jones said, causing their supply chain to dry up.
Jones claims he asked FEMA to let him use a work around – ordering tarps from a Chinese manufacturer – but FEMA refused the request.
With the law now in effect, the inspector general at the Department of Homeland Security is expected to begin an audit within 30 days.
A full report on their findings must be provided to Congress within 270 days.
The final report will be delivered to both the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee as well as the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs.