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BP Still Being Awarded Lucrative Government Contracts

It apparently is of little concern to the government that BP is under federal criminal investigation and was responsible for our largest environmental disaster.

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Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) officials held talks about possibly debarring or limiting BP from receiving additional government contracts several months after the deadly April 20, 2010, explosion aboard the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig, which claimed the lives of 11 workers and spilled at least five million barrels of oil into the Gulf.

But two senior EPA officials, who spoke to Truthout on condition of anonymity, said those discussions "went nowhere" largely because the federal government relies too heavily on BP to meet its needs and "arguments were raised" by "various agency officials" about the "possibility of debarment being a threat to national security."

"But ultimately what it came down to was a lack of interest in holding this company accountable," one EPA official said.

In an interview last year, Jeanne Pascal, the former debarment counsel at the EPA's Seattle office who spent more than a decade working on issues related to environmental crimes BP had been convicted of, said she had to proceed with caution when she considered debarring the oil company from receiving government contracts.

"If I had debarred BP while they were supplying 80 percent of the fuel to US forces it would have been almost certain that the Defense Department would have been forced to get an exception," Pascal said.

She had noted that the 80 percent figure was provided by her "contact," an attorney, who works at the Defense Energy Support Center, the agency that responsible for purchasing all of the fuel for the military.

"There's a provision in the debarment regulations that says in a time of war or extreme need exceptions can be granted to debarment so that federal agencies with critical needs can continue doing business with debarred contractors. I was in a quandary," Pascal added. "If I moved forward with debarment we would have had a major federal contractor doing business with the federal government with no governmental oversight or audit provisions. I felt oversight terms and conditions were critical with BP, so I pursued settlement of the matter in the hopes of getting oversight and audit terms."

Amey, POGO's general counsel, said that "the government still turns [to BP] with goods and services and does not take into account their past performance, level of responsibility and the fact they violated laws is a perfect example of a contractor too big to fail."

On POGO's Federal Contractor Misconduct Database, BP comes in at number 48 in a list of the top 100 government contractors. But the company ranks second, behind Lockheed Martin, as having the most instances of misconduct - 53 - since 1995, which has resulted in more than $1.6 billion in fines.

Those factors do not appear to be of concern to the federal government.

According to USAspending.gov, which tracks government contracts, BP was awarded 52 government contracts worth $56.5 million for fiscal year 2011 to supply fuel, gas, and other petroleum products to agencies such as the Defense Department and Department of Health and Human Services. From fiscal year 2006 through 2010, BP received 707 government contracts worth nearly $7 billion.

However, the federal government does want the public to believe it scrutinizes its awardees before turning over billions in taxpayer dollars to companies such as BP.

Last Friday, the government launched its answer to POGO's Federal Contractor Misconduct Database: the Federal Awardee Performance and Integrity Information System (FAPIIS).

"In 2008, Congress passed the law that created FAPIIS, which agencies must check before awarding a contract or grant to ensure the prospective awardee is 'responsible,'" POGO reported. As a "condition for making FAPIIS public, a few concessions had to be granted to the entities listed in it. This included making so-called 'past performance reviews' off-limits to the public and only posting data entered into FAPIIS on or after April 15, 2011."

 
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