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FCW Insider: Alaska native contracting deserves more scrutiny

Perhaps — just perhaps — the problems with Alaska native set-aside contracting might be fully exposed.


In today's Washington Post, Robert O'Harrow Jr. reports on a case in which Food and Drug Administration officials used an Alaska-based company to funnel public relations work to Washington, D.C.-based Qorvis Communications.


Under existing laws, agencies can award contracts to Alaska Native Corporations without competition. Most such firms are too small to handle large contracts on their own without the help of a large subcontractor. But ideally, the Alaskan firm would handle a substantial amount of the work.


The Post story is just one example of how the program is frequently abused, with the Alaskan company serving as a front for the subcontractor. In the past several years, the Government Accountability Office has investigated such reports (read one such report from 2006) and Congress has held several hearings (read an FCW story from the same time period).


But these investigations have never gained traction. They generate a lot of headlines for a couple days, and then people lose interest.


O'Harrow might have changed the dynamics by documenting how the various players openly plotted to use the Alaskan firm to send work to Qorvis.


A sample grab:


"While the deal was being formulated last October, James Dunn, a private consultant who had dealings with ANI, sent the following e-mail to a Qorvis executive, who forwarded it to an FDA official: 'ANI will gladly serve as a prime for Qorvis on the FDA deal, knowing that the agency would intend to direct them to you as a subcontractor to perform all the work.'"


James Dunn is no stranger to FCW's pages. In 2002, Dunn left GTSI to become chief operating officer of Eyak, an 8(a) company owned by Alaska natives in the village of Cordova, Alaska (read the full story). He is now with Red Team Consulting.

An FDA consultant who appears to have been the primary engineer behind the deal described it as "a matter of efficiency."


According to O'Harrow's article, a congressional committee is promising to look into the matter. Perhaps this time, Congress will see the issue through.


What do you think? Post a comment on this blog or send a letter to the editor.

Posted by John Stein Monroe on Oct 02, 2008 at 12:17 PM


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