Despite President Obama’s long history of criticizing the Bush administration for “sweetheart deals” with favored contractors, the Obama administration this month awarded a $25 million federal contract for work in Afghanistan to a company owned by a Democratic campaign contributor without entertaining competitive bids, Fox News has learned.
The contract, awarded on Jan. 4 to Checchi & Company Consulting, Inc., a Washington-based firm owned by economist and Democratic donor Vincent V. Checchi, will pay the firm $24,673,427 to provide “rule of law stabilization services” in war-torn Afghanistan.
So you ask what is “rule of law stabilization services” ? And why does it cost $24,673,427 ?
A synopsis of the contract published on the USAID Web site says Checchi & Company will “train the next generation of legal professionals” throughout the Afghan provinces and thereby “develop the capacity of Afghanistan’s justice system to be accessible, reliable, and fair.”
The legality of the arrangement as a “sole source,” or no-bid, contract was made possible by virtue of a waiver signed by the USAID administrator. “They cancelled the open bid on this when they came to power earlier this year,” a source familiar with the federal contracting process told Fox News.
“That’s kind of weird,” said another source, who has worked on “rule of law” issues in both Afghanistan and Iraq, about the no-bid contract to Checchi & Company. “There’s lots of companies and non-governmental organizations that do this sort of work.”
One of the hardest working Republicans in Congress is Rep. Darryl Issa, R-California.
Rep. Darryl Issa, R-Calif., the ranking Republican on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said Fox News’ reporting on the no-bid contract in this case “disturbed” him.
Issa has written to USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah requesting that the agency “produce all documents related to the Checchi contract” on or before Feb. 5. Citing the waiver that enabled USAID to award the contract on a no-bid basis, Issa noted that the exemption was intended to speed up the provision of services in a crisis environment.
Yet “on its face,” wrote Issa to Shah, “the consulting contract awarded to Checchi to support the Afghan justice system does not appear to be so urgent or attendant to an immediate need so as to justify such a waiver.”
Corporate rivals of Checchi were reluctant to speak on the record about the no-bid contract awarded to his firm because they feared possible retribution by the Obama administration in the awarding of future contracts.
“We don’t want to be blackballed,” said the managing partner of a consulting firm that has won similar contracts. “You’ve got to be careful. We’re dealing here with people and offices that we depend on for our business.”
Still, the rival executive confirmed that open bidding on USAID’s lucrative Afghanistan “rule of law” contract was abruptly revoked by the agency earlier this year.
“It’s a mystery to us,” the managing partner said. “We were going to bid on it. The solicitation (for bids) got pulled back, and we do not know why. We may never know why. These are things that we, as companies doing business with the government, have to put up with.”
As a candidate for president in 2008, then-Sen. Obama frequently derided the Bush administration for the awarding of federal contracts without competitive bidding.
“We don’t want to be blackballed,”
Hmmmm, they better watch out – Obama might think these people are racist.
Read the bid award here: Afghanistan Rule of Law Stabilization Program (RLS)