Federal officials had previously rejected Fisher Sand and Gravel's offerings, but President Trump is a fan of the company.
The chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee is asking the Pentagon watchdog to review a recent $400 million border wall contract to a North Dakota company, citing potential improper influence by the Trump administration.
Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., on Wednesday asked the Defense Department’s inspector general to determine why the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers awarded Fisher Sand and Gravel Co. a contract to build part of the border wall along the southern perimeter of the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge in Yuma County, Arizona, after it had reportedly determined the company’s offering was inadequate.
The Army Corps has awarded $2.5 billion in border construction contracts since January 2017, but Thompson noted that Fisher Sand and Gravel Co. was not among the companies selected for the work. It “reportedly did not meet the operational requirements of U.S. Customs and Border Protection and its prototype came in late and over budget,” he wrote. However, he noted that President Trump has repeatedly encouraged the department to select the company.
Additionally, Thompson noted that the president’s son-in-law and senior advisor Jared Kushner, who now oversees the construction, reportedly supported the contract award. A week before the contract was awarded, Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf toured a section of wall the company is building on private land through the conservative group We Build the Wall.
“These actions raise concerns about the possibility of inappropriate influence on [Corps of Engineers’] contracting decision,” Thompson wrote.
A spokesperson for the Defense Department’s inspector general told Government Executive: “We received the letter and are reviewing it.”
After the contract was announced on Monday, CNN reported that Fisher Sand and Gravel Co. has “a history of red flags,” which include “more than $1 million in fines for environmental and tax violations.” The company did not respond to a request for comment from Government Executive. In May, the company told CNN, “The questions you are asking have nothing to do with the excellent product and work that Fisher is proposing with regard to protecting America's southern border.”
The Defense Department said it sought five bids for the contract but received just three. The company’s work is expected to be completed by Dec. 30, 2020.