Why People Don’t Trust Congress « The Washington Independent
Because even if it happened innocently or accidentally or meritoriously, it still doesn’t look good when the nephew of Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.), who chairs the House subcommittee that directs defense spending, shows up with a $4 million no-bid defense contract, as The Washington Post reported today.
[L]ast year, Murtech received $4 million in Pentagon work, all of it without competition, for a variety of warehousing and engineering services. With its long corridor of sparsely occupied offices and an unmanned reception area, Murtech’s most striking feature is its owner — Robert C. Murtha Jr., 49. He is the nephew of Rep. John P. Murtha, the Pennsylvania Democrat who has significant sway over the Defense Department’s spending as chairman of the House Appropriations defense subcommittee.
Robert Murtha said he is not at liberty to discuss in detail what his company does, but for four years it has subsisted on defense contracts, according to records and interviews. He said Murtech’s 17 employees “provide necessary logistical support” to Pentagon testing programs that focus on detecting chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear threats, “and that’s about as far as I feel comfortable going.” Giving more details could provide important clues to terrorist plotters, he said.
The Pentagon has denied that Murtha the congressman had any influence over the contract award, The Post reported. Still, the Army’s justification for choosing the contractor without accepting competitor’s bids is as large a scandal as the Murtha family cleaning up on the public’s dime.
Leo Fratis, the Army contracting officer who handled the matter, said there was “nothing improper” about the contract. He said it was awarded on a no-bid basis only because the Army command “had a lot of things going on at the time.”
Of course, if the protection of taxpayer dollars by way of competitive bidding is dependent on the Army not having a lot of things going on, the country’s budget problems may be worse than we think.