Tech firms land hurricane work as oversight is urged

Roughly $18 million of the $240 million in hurricane-related contracts has gone to technology companies.

Of the $240 million in federal contracts listed in a public database for relief efforts related to Hurricane Katrina, roughly $18 million has gone to technology companies, according to new data posted on the General Services Administration Web site.

Illinois-based Motorola's $15.9 million contract for telecommunications management services ranked first among the tech contracts. Other tech beneficiaries include MPC-G and Dell Computer.

The former provides computer software solutions for the government and was awarded a $651,000 contract. Dell won $500,000 in contracts from the Homeland Security and Interior departments to provide computer-processing units, monitors and systems.

Rounding out the top five tech firms to benefit from Katrina work, Government Telecommunications received $186,000 for telecom support, and Freedom 4 Wireless received $126,000 to provide its networks for Internet telephone services. CDW Government, Cingular Wireless, Comstor, GTSI, MediaLink, Plantronics, Southland Technology and T-Mobile also were among the companies to receive contracts.

The majority of contracts are set to be fulfilled by October. Contracts that already have been fulfilled, according to the Federal Business Opportunities Web site, include a $632,113 award to Spirit Wireless to supply satellite phones to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Florida-based Harris Corporation also received a no-bid award to provide satellite imagery to integrate into hurricane support operations at the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency. And the Air Force is soliciting radio communications and detection equipment for Barksdale Air Force Base in Bossier City, La.

FEMA's National Disaster Medical System also has tapped emergency funding to provide urgent medical care throughout the hurricane-stricken region. NDMS has more than 1,000 personnel there managing the coordination of medical care and technical support.

Meanwhile, a request for bids to construct a first responder facility for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration at the Stennis Space Center in Mississippi has been indefinitely delayed, according to a modified solicitation dated Sept. 4.

As federal money as been flowing to the Gulf Coast since the enactment of $62 billion in emergency spending, some lawmakers have urged caution in distributing the funds. FEMA has spent roughly $12 billion of the money so far.

House Government Reform Committee Chairman Tom Davis, R-Va., and Financial Management Subcommittee Chairman Todd Platts, R-Pa., sent a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and acting Inspector General Richard Skinner on Sept. 15. "The emergency circumstances ... provide an opportunity for fraud and mismanagement that would deprive the affected people of the full benefit of the funds to be spent on the recovery," they wrote.

To help ensure that funds are properly managed and spent, Congress provided $15 million in the second emergency funding law for Skinner's office to audit and investigate any mismanagement.

"We are going to have to wait" to see how the money is ultimately spent, said Scott Amey, general counsel for the Project on Government Oversight. "I hope ... contract provisions are not waived and oversight doesn't take a backseat to a speedy recovery."