‘Irregularities’ found in the Trump administration's contract for company used to collect coronavirus data: report

‘Irregularities’ found in the Trump administration's contract for company used to collect coronavirus data: report
Lt. Cmdr. Michael Heimes, assigned to Expeditionary Medical Facility-M, checks on a patient connected to a ventilator during an ICU night shift at Baton Rouge General Mid City campus, April 28, 2020. The 100 EMF-M personnel, part of the Department of Defense COVID-19 response, work to ease the strain of the significant patient care surge as part of the BRG Mid City family. U.S. Northern Command, through U.S. Army North, is providing military support to the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help communities in need. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Daniel R. Betancourt Jr./Released)200428-M-WU117-1661

TeleTracking Technologies, a Pittsburg-based company known for developing software that hospitals use to track the status of patients, was awarded a multi-million-dollar contract from President Donald Trump’s administration to collect COVID-19 data from hospitals in the U.S. — and National Public Radio is reporting that it found “irregularities” in the “process” that gave TeleTracking the contract.

According to NPR reporters Dina Temple-Raston and Tim Mak, NPR’s investigation found that “the Department of Health and Human Services initially characterized the contract with TeleTracking as a no-bid contract. When asked about that, HHS said there was a ‘coding error’ and that the contract was actually competitively bid. The process by which HHS awarded the contract is normally used for innovative scientific research, not the building of government databases.”

According to the NPR reporters, Carrie Kroll of the Texas Hospital Association “didn’t give it a second thought” when, in April, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced it would be using TeleTracking as an option for collecting data on COVID-19. But she “balked” after “the HHS suddenly announced, in July, that hospitals could no longer report COVID data through the (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), but would instead, be required to do so through the HHS-TeleTracking system or their state health departments,” Temple-Raston and Mak explain.

Temple-Raston and Mak note that NPR found that TeleTracking CEO Michael Zamagias “had links to the New York real estate world — and in particular, a firm that financed billions of dollars in projects with the Trump Organization.”

Zamagias, according to Temple-Raston and Mak, “came from the real estate sector” and founded the real estate company, Zamagias Properties, in Pittsburgh in 1987. And Zamagias has long been a GOP donor, the NPR reporters observe.

Howard Cooper, a partner in the Manhattan-based company Cooper-Horowitz, had a business relationship with Zamagias. Neal Cooper, his son, told NPR, “(Cooper-Horowitz) did business with Michael in the late 1980s. I don’t know if we ever did big deals with him, but we ran in the same circles. I learned a lot from Michael. He was always one or two steps ahead of the next guy.”

Cooper-Horowitz, according to Neal Cooper, had extensive dealings with the Trump Organization. Neal Cooper told NPR, “I didn’t handle Trump’s account, but I’ve been in meetings with Trump.  We did tons of business with him — billions of dollars of business.”

Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. AlterNet’s journalists work tirelessly to counter the traditional corporate media narrative. We’re here seven days a week, 365 days a year. And we’re proud to say that we’ve been bringing you the real, unfiltered news for 20 years—longer than any other progressive news site on the Internet.

It’s through the generosity of our supporters that we’re able to share with you all the underreported news you need to know. Independent journalism is increasingly imperiled; ads alone can’t pay our bills. AlterNet counts on readers like you to support our coverage. Did you enjoy content from David Cay Johnston, Common Dreams, Raw Story and Robert Reich? Opinion from Salon and Jim Hightower? Analysis by The Conversation? Then join the hundreds of readers who have supported AlterNet this year.

Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Help ensure AlterNet remains independent long into the future. Support progressive journalism with a one-time contribution to AlterNet, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you. Click here to donate by check.