Despite a month-old pledge, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has yet to reopen four of its biggest no-bid contracts for Hurricane Katrina work and will not do so until the contracts are virtually complete. A promise to hire more minority-owned firms also is largely unfulfilled.
The no-bid contracts for temporary housing, worth up to $100 million each, were given to Shaw Group Inc., Bechtel Corp., CH2M Hill Cos.and Fluor Corp. right after Katrina struck.
On Oct. 6, acting FEMA chief R. David Paulison declared he was "no fan of no-bid contracts" and pledged to reopen the four deals. But in testimony to Congress on Tuesday, Greg Rothwell, Homeland Security's chief procurement officer, said rebidding will notbe done until February.
"Until then, the four companies will continue their work," he told a Senate hearing chaired by Sen. Olympia J. Snowe (R-Maine) whose panel is reviewing government efforts to help small businesses rebuild.
Larry Orluskie, a Homeland Security spokesman, said FEMA had not reopened the contracts because it had to process paperwork. Meanwhile, officials are actively seeking smaller companies by holding workshops and through its Web site at www.dhs.gov/openforbusiness.
"It's a process," Orluskie said. "We can't have a change with the push of a button. Statements of work have to be cleared."
But the four major firms said this week they had not been notified of the rebidding other than from news reports following Paulison's announcement. Two of them -- CH2M Hill and Fluor -- said their contract terms had established that FEMA had an option to end the work in January.