On Thursday, U.S. Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., teamed up with U.S. Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., to highlight their proposal reforming how federal, state and local governments handle contracts after natural disasters.
Last week, Scott introduced the “Disaster Contract Transparency Act” which will try to speed up payments after natural disasters.
Scott’s office showcased the problems that governments face in covering contracts after natural disasters.
“Last year, the Government Accountability Office reported that, as of May 31, 2018, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) executed $4.5 billion in advance contract obligations – about 56 percent of the total obligations made by these agencies for response and recovery efforts – for three hurricanes and California wildfires in 2017,” Scott’s office noted.
“In Florida, we experienced firsthand the devastation and destruction massive storms have on families, communities and businesses across our state,” Scott said. “During my time as governor, we were faced with many hurricanes, and I always appreciated the assistance FEMA provided to Florida families and businesses. However, despite the good work done by our federal partners, one thing was clear: the federal contracting process is full of waste, inefficiencies, and bloated spending that didn’t always directly help the people in Florida who were impacted. When I ran for Senate, I promised to fight waste and make Washington work – and this landmark legislation will make sure the federal response to storms gets rid of the inefficient and costly bureaucracies in response efforts and keeps it focused on helping the victims and communities impacted.”
“This important bill will help protect taxpayers from price gouging on debris removal services once the federal government decides to offer FEMA assistance,” Lankford, who is cosponsoring the bill, said. “Oklahomans are unfortunately well acquainted with natural disasters and severe weather, particularly after this year’s tornadoes and floods. This bill sets out important requirements for states to have advance contracts in place before disasters strike to ensure fair pricing for debris removal when the disaster happens. Prioritizing transparency, reporting requirements, and stronger pre-emptive disaster service contracts will help prevent waste, fraud, and abuse of taxpayer dollars.”
The bill would ensure state and local governments have advance contracts for debris removal ready. The legislation would also have FEMA penalize contractors and vendors who do not adhere to pre-disaster contracts or misuse public funds. The bill would also ensure FEMA does not overpay in reimbursements for debris removal, create guidelines for it and report to Congress on contracts for disaster recovery services.
Lankford is the only cosponsor for the bill so far and there is no counterpart over in the U.S. House. The bill was sent to the U.S. Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee last week.