MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Expressing concern Florida will seek “reimbursement for potentially wasteful debris removal contracts,” Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill is demanding answers from the Federal Emergency Management Agency about the two contracts issued by Governor Rick Scott immediately after Hurricane Irma hit the Florida Keys.
Those emergency contracts were the focus of a series of stories last month by CBS4 Miami, entitled Debris Debacle.
The stories detailed how Scott ignored the debris removal contracts already in place in the Keys and instead issued emergency contracts for the lucrative work of clearing fallen trees, palm fronds, as well as the remnants of destroyed homes and trailers.
One of the companies selected had no previous debris removal experience, while more qualified firms were prevented from even submitting bids.
CBS4 News reviewed more than $43 million worth of invoices submitted by Munilla Construction Management (MCM) and Community Asphalt, the two firms selected to operate in the Keys under the emergency contract.
If the Governor used one of the companies already under contract with the state, it would have cost taxpayers as little as $13 million to do the exact same work.
The prices in the emergency contracts were believed to be the highest in the state.
For instance, to sweep curbs and gutters, MCM charged $913 a mile while the three firms the governor ignored would have charged far less – between $12 and $123.
Since Florida is expected to ask the federal government to pay for the cleanup, McCaskill said she wanted more information from FEMA to make sure taxpayers weren’t being abused. On Tuesday she sent a six page letter to FEMA Administrator Brock Long with a series of questions including: “When and how did FEMA first learn that the state was considering awarding – or had awarded – emergency contracts for debris removal in Monroe County?”
McCaskill is also asking for all emails “sent or received between September 3, 2017, and October 1, 2017, between any FEMA employee and any employee of the State of Florida regarding these awards.”
And she wants to know how FEMA will determine if the costs in the emergency contracts “are necessary and reasonable” as well as the process the agency will use in deciding whether or not to reimburse the state for these contracts.
In recent months, McCaskill, a former state auditor, has been focused on FEMA’s response to hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria. As she noted in her letter to FEMA: “I have previously raised concerns regarding FEMA’s failure to use competitively bid prepositioned contracts.”
In a statement to CBS4, McCaskill said:
“I’m going to keep repeating this as many times as I have to – we need more prepositioned contracts, and we need to make sure they are executed properly. In this case you saw prepositioned contracts actually in place, but they didn’t get used and that may have left taxpayers on the hook for millions of dollars – we need to find out why.”