11.12.08

ENZI, COBURN INVESTIGATE CONTRACT IRREGULARITIES AT FDA; CALL ON AGENCY TO PROVIDE DETAILED REPORTS ON PUBLIC RELATIONS CONTRACT

Washington D.C. – U.S. Senator Mike Enzi, R-WY, Ranking Member of theSenate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee (HELP Committee), andSenator Tom Coburn, R-OK, have asked the Food and Drug Administration to provideinformation about a no-bid contract that officials awarded to a public relations firm withties to the agency.

“We write today with great concern over apparent disregard for proper andtransparent procedure at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regarding a contractfor a public relations campaign, as recently reported by The Washington Post. Allegations that FDA officials steered a no-bid contract toward a Washington publicrelations firm with ties to agency officials lead us to demand real answers for theAmerican people about FDA’s actions,” Senators Enzi and Coburn wrote in a letter to Dr.Andrew von Eschenbach, FDA Commissioner.

Senator Enzi said: “These actions are disappointing and could severely damagethe image of FDA. We need to make sure that FDA uses the millions of additionaldollars that Congress recently granted the agency to achieve its core mission – protectingAmerican consumers and patients.”

Dr. Coburn said: “FDA contracts should be awarded in a fair, competitive, andtransparent process to ensure taxpayer dollars are spent wisely. FDA officials steeringno-bid contracts to their friends is unacceptable, and Americans deserve better from theirleaders and government. Vigorous oversight and greater accountability is necessary toensure that the FDA is effectively safeguarding the public’s health and theirpocketbooks.”

Senators Enzi and Coburn also sent a letter to Daniel Levinson, Inspector Generalof the Department of Health and Human Services, asking that he conduct an investigationinto the contracting issue. The Post article suggests that an FDA official in charge of a public relationscampaign intended to contract with Qorvis, a major Washington public relations firmspecializing in crisis communications.

Instead of competitively bidding the contract tofind the best deal for taxpayers, however, FDA entered into a contract with AlaskaNewspapers, Inc. (“ANI”), an Alaska Native firm, pursuant to a federal diversity procurement set-aside program.

“We are concerned that FDA officials entered into this contract with ANI as a subterfuge for the purpose of receiving services from Qorvis as an ANI subcontractor,which appears to have effectively bypassed a fair and transparent contracting process,”the Senators wrote. “We believe that the best interests of taxpayers are served through a transparentand competitive federal contracting process, and we want to ensure that this is aconsistent practice at the FDA.” Copies of the letters follow.

Press Contact

Craig Orfield (202) 224-6770

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