Democrats Elizabeth Warren, Bennie Thompson call for border wall contract review

April 24 (UPI) — Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) have asked the acting Inspector General of the Department of Defense to review a border wall contract awarded earlier this month.

In mid-April the Army awarded BFBC, an affiliate of Bozeman, Mont.-based Barnard Construction with a $ 569 million contract to build 17.17 miles of wall in southern California.

The letter calls attention to the high price of the wall — $ 33 million per mile — which they said was more than a price that is more than 50 percent higher than the $ 20 million per-mile average reported in January.

“The decision to award a no-bid contract to BFBC-whose parent firm, Barnard Construction, is led by a reliable Republican campaign donor who has donated thousands of dollars to President Trump’s reelection campaign – raises serious questions about both potential government waste and the fairness of the procurement process. BFBC has so far received more than $ 1 billion of taxpayer money to build the border wall,” said the letter.

Last week, Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.), a ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, also released a statement saying he had asked the Government Accountability Office to include Barnard Construction in its investigation of border wall contracts involving politically-connected contractors.

“The contracting process should be merit-based and free from political influence and corruption,” Reed said. “Equally important is the fact that at a time when the Trump Administration should be mobilizing resources, including the Army Corps of Engineers, to help effectively combat coronavirus and save lives, the Trump Administration is instead directing half a billion dollars to a no-bid contract to build an ineffective wall. This raises troubling questions about the timing of this contract and how it was given to this private contractor.”

According to Federal Election Commission filings, in 2019 Timothy Barnard, listed as the chairman of Barnard Construction on the company’s website, gave $ 2,800 to President Donald Trump‘s reelection campaign.

Barnard’s political contributions also include a number of Montana-based Republicans politicians and political action committees. In 2015 and 2016, he gave to several of Trump’s opponents in the Republican primary, including Marco Rubio, Ben Carson and Jeb Bush.

Reed had already asked the GAO to investigate Fisher Sand & Gravel, which in December received a $ 400 million contract to build a 31-mile section of the wall.

Fisher has faced similar questions of undue influence.

The North Dakota firm has sought contracts for the wall since at least 2017 and its CEO has said his company can work faster and cheaper than competitors. The per-mile price of the December contract is $ 12.9 million.

Earlier this month four Congressional Democrats, including Thompson, called for a halt to border wall construction due to the coronavirus pandemic, which the Department of Defense has continued to award despite the pandemic, political opposition and litigation.

At the beginning of April SLSCO Ltd. was awarded a $ 61.4 million modification to a previously awarded $ 789 million contract for work on a section of wall near El Paso, Texas. The award announcement did not specify the length of this section of wall.

In March Southwest Valley Constructors, a division of the Omaha-based Kiewit, received a $ 524 million modification to a $ 646 million deal for border wall construction in Tucson, Ariz. Southwest also received a $ 175.4 million deal in February for border wall construction in the Rio Grande Valley in Texas.

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Business News – UPI.com

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