Online Summit TODAY at 1 p.m. ET: Teaching Math in a Pandemic. Register Now
Education Federal File

Caveat Emptor

By Vaishali Honawar — November 08, 2005 1 min read

An official of the Government Accountability Office told a congressional panel last week that the federal government may have overpaid a company that contracted to provide portable classrooms for Mississippi schools damaged by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

In his Nov. 2 testimony before a House select committee investigating hurricane response, David E. Cooper, the GAO’s director of acquisition and sourcing management, said the watchdog agency of Congress was reviewing the contract and had “concerns that the government may be paying more than necessary.”

Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., asked for the investigation in September. In a Sept. 29 letter to the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general, he said the federal government was paying $88,000 per mobile classroom, when the units should have cost $35,000 to $42,000 each. Rep. Thompson added that Akima Site Operations, which was awarded the contract by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on behalf of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, does not have any “particular expertise in constructing or installing portable classrooms.”

Under the no-bid contract, Akima is to receive $39.5 million to provide 450 portable classrooms to Mississippi schools heavily damaged in the hurricanes, although another contractor, Kent Adams of the Mississippi-based Adams Home Center, had agreed to deliver and set up the same number of classrooms for around $26 million.

USA Today reported last month that Akima, based in North Carolina, is a subsidiary of a politically linked minority company called Nana Regional, based in Alaska. Federal rules allow Alaskan Native-owned firms to receive no-bid federal contracts worth more than the $3 million to $5 million limit applied to other minority-owned companies. The rules have drawn criticism from other companies and some members of Congress.

Mr. Cooper of the GAO told the House select committee last week that “since being awarded, the order [for portable classrooms] has been amended several times to adjust the type and quantity of classrooms provided and other work required,” and that the GAO questions “whether Corps contracting officials had sufficient knowledge to ensure a good acquisition outcome.”

He added that information in the Corps of Engineers’ contract files and other sources “suggest the negotiated prices were inflated.”

A version of this article appeared in the November 09, 2005 edition of Education Week


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Future of Work Webinar
Digital Literacy Strategies to Promote Equity
Our new world has only increased our students’ dependence on technology. This makes digital literacy no longer a “nice to have” but a “need to have.” How do we ensure that every student can navigate
Content provided by
Mathematics Online Summit Teaching Math in a Pandemic
Attend this online summit to ask questions about how COVID-19 has affected achievement, instruction, assessment, and engagement in math.
School & District Management Webinar Examining the Evidence: Catching Kids Up at a Distance
As districts, schools, and families navigate a new normal following the abrupt end of in-person schooling this spring, students’ learning opportunities vary enormously across the nation. Access to devices and broadband internet and a secure

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Speech Therapists
Lancaster, PA, US
Lancaster Lebanon IU 13
Elementary Teacher
Madison, Wisconsin
One City Schools

Read Next

Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: January 13, 2021
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Obituary In Memory of Michele Molnar, EdWeek Market Brief Writer and Editor
EdWeek Market Brief Associate Editor Michele Molnar, who was instrumental in launching the publication, succumbed to cancer.
5 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: December 9, 2020
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: Stories You May Have Missed
A collection of articles from the previous week that you may have missed.
8 min read