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LaTourette & LoBiondo Introduce Resolution that Compels Administration to Provide Copies of Hurricane Construction Contracts Awarded by FEMA

Location: Washington, DC

LaTourette & LoBiondo Introduce Resolution that Compels Administration to Provide Copies of Hurricane Construction Contracts Awarded by FEMA
October 7, 2005

Say measure will provide transparency and accountability while ensuring workers are fully compensated under Davis-Bacon Act

WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Representatives Steven C. LaTourette (R-OH) and Frank A. LoBiondo (R-NJ), members of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, today introduced a resolution to compel the Bush Administration to provide the House of Representatives with copies of any and all contracts related to Hurricane Katrina recovery or rebuilding, including pre-awarded contracts. Additional documents which address wages and benefits paid to workers pursuant to the Davis-Bacon Act, which President Bush suspended indefinitely on September 8, 2005, are also sought under this resolution.

"The American people deserve transparency when the federal government is rushing to award contracts of $100 million or more. There's virtually no record keeping, no accountability and the potential for shoddy workmanship by unskilled workers," LaTourette said. "Congress has already approved more than $60 billion in funding for Katrina efforts, and there are few controls as to how the money is spent or misspent."

"Hurricanes Katrina and Rita caused unimaginable destruction to communities in the Gulf Coast region. As the area recovers, we must ensure that all federal resources allocated be used appropriately and to the greatest benefit of the communities they are intended to help. As guardians of the taxpayer's interests, it is critical that the Congress have an accurate account of how all money is being spent," said Representative LoBiondo.

According to the LaTourette-LoBiondo resolution, copies of contracts must be provided to the House within 14 days after adoption of the resolution. The contracts cover "services or building or other construction (including pre-awarded contacts or contracts that were modified or extended) related to Hurricane Katrina recovery and rebuilding" as outlined in a Presidential Proclamation issued on September 8, 2005. The resolution pertains to contracts awarded by FEMA or any other agency.

Additionally, the resolution further stipulates that the Bush Administration provide any communications (made or received) regarding contracts in the geographic areas specified when the President suspended Davis-Bacon indefinitely on September 8, 2005, via Proclamation 7924.

The 1931 Davis-Bacon Act sets wages for union and non-union workers on federal contracts, and also requires meticulous record-keeping about the number of employees working, the number of hours worked, employee Social Security numbers as well as wages and benefits. This is just the fourth time Davis-Bacon has been suspended by a President, and in the other instances it was suspended briefly for a specified period. On this occasion, the President suspended it indefinitely for federal contracts in all of Louisiana and Mississippi, six counties in Alabama and three counties in Florida.

"We can spend billions of dollars to rebuild roads, bridges and levies and hope that they are properly constructed by skilled laborers so they withstand the next hurricane, or we can skimp and try to save a few bucks an hour on wages," LaTourette said.

"Additionally, I am deeply concerned that those who are working tirelessly to rebuild communities across the Gulf Coast region are not being justly compensated. The indefinite suspension of the Davis-Bacon Act threatens the ongoing reconstruction of public services, transportation infrastructure, and city buildings by not fairly reimbursing skilled professionals for their hard work," concluded Representative LoBiondo.

LaTourette and LoBiondo, co-chairs of the Republican Working Group on Labor, also spearheaded a letter sent to the President in September asking that the suspension of Davis-Bacon be lifted by November 8, 2005. It was signed by 37 House Republicans.

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