The $90,000 Portable Classroom
The latest no-bid contract awarded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency as part of the Hurricane Katrina recovery effort, involves 450 portable classrooms in Mississippi at a whopping $90,000 each (New York Times).
The politically-connected Alaskan company that got the very profitable contract is called Akima and the cost to taxpayers was nearly 60% higher than the price offered by two small Mississippi businesses that were dropped from the deal.
Why would FEMA, already under tremendous scrutiny for incompetence and awarding billions of dollars in no-bid contracts, do it again? Perhaps it is because Akima’s majority owner is represented in Washington by a lobbying firm (Blank Rome Government Relations) with close ties to the Bush administration and particularly Tom Ridge, the former head of the Department of Homeland Security, FEMA’s parent agency.
Then again there is the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act of 1971 that makes Akima (see co. web site detailing law) one of several native-owned businesses eligible for no-bid contracts.
The company is owned by 14,000 Inupiat and Unangan Native Alaskans.