U.S. News

U.S. senator questions FEMA over Puerto Rico contracts

FILE PHOTO: Senator Mike Enzi (R-WY) arrives for a meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., July 19, 2017. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The head of the U.S. Senate’s budget panel has questioned the federal disaster response agency about two contracts totaling more than $180 million, awarded to companies that failed to deliver the goods to hurricane-hit Puerto Rico last year.

Senator Mike Enzi, chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, asked Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator William Long to answer questions about how the agency vets and identifies contractors, Enzi’s office said on Thursday.

He mentioned a $156 million contract to Tribute Contracting to provide 30 million meals to victims of Hurricane Maria which was canceled after it delivered only 50,000, and a $30 million contract to Bronze Star to supply tarps and plastic sheeting that were never delivered, his office said in a statement that was linked to the letter.

“It appears that FEMA has not properly vetted some of the companies that receive contracts, and therefore may have wasted millions of taxpayer dollars, while simultaneously denying services to citizens in need of them,” the Republican senator wrote.

“Taxpayers have a right to expect more responsible stewardship of their hard-earned dollars.”

Earlier this month, Democrats in the House of Representatives raised similar questions about the Tribute contract, saying the one-person company had a history of problems handling smaller government contracts and had been barred from government work until 2019.

Reporting by Mohammad Zargham; Editing by David Gregorio