An organization created by a former Pentagon official who describes himself as a White House volunteer for Vice President Mike Pence received a $2.four million greenback contract in May — its first federal award — to produce the Bureau of Prisons with surgical robes.
Mathew J. Konkler, who labored in the Department of Defense through the George W. Bush administration, fashioned BlackPoint Distribution Company LLC in August 2019 in Indiana, state information present, however had received no federal work till May 26. The Bureau of Prisons selected the corporate with restricted competitors for a contract to produce surgical robes to its services.
It is at the very least the second contract awarded to an organization fashioned by a person who had labored in or volunteered for the Trump administration; an organization fashioned by Zach Fuentes, a former White House deputy chief of workers, received a $three million contract simply days after forming to produce face masks to the Indian Health Service. The masks didn’t meet FDA requirements to be used in well being care settings, and an IHS spokesman stated this week that the company is attempting to return the masks to Fuentes. Members of Congress known as for investigations into the contract, and the Government Accountability Office now plans to evaluation the deal “in the coming few months, as staff become available,” spokesman Charles Young stated final week.
A lawyer for Fuentes’ firm stated the agency fulfilled all of its obligations to IHS beneath the contract.
BlackPoint Distribution’s web site doesn’t point out Konkler however describes its work as “locating, verifying and successfully delivering vital products and equipment in the midst of extremely challenging environments.” The area title was registered on April 9, 2020. In its incorporation paperwork, Konkler is listed because the CEO of BlackPoint Distribution. The solely contact info on the location is an online type and an electronic mail handle. Emails despatched to it had been returned as undeliverable, and Konkler didn’t return a number of cellphone calls and messages searching for remark.
On the web site for BlackPoint Creative LLC, one other Indiana agency the place Konkler serves as managing accomplice, his bio says that “since 2018, Mr. Konkler has also served as a volunteer at the White House on the staff of the Vice President, Michael R. Pence.”
In a 2018 interview with an Indiana enterprise publication, Konkler stated that one other of his corporations, BlackPoint Strategies was a “full-service consulting firm offering a variety of other advisory services, which focus on strategic marketing, digital marketing and crisis communications,” but in addition assisted Indiana corporations in promoting merchandise in worldwide markets. A search of Indi ana state contracts yielded no earlier or present authorities contracts for BlackPoint Distribution or different companies that Konkler is concerned in.
A spokesman for Pence stated that Konkler beforehand had helped coordinate a few of the vice chairman’s journey however was not at the moment a volunteer.
“Mr. Konkler is not nor ever has been a member of Vice President Pence’s staff,” stated Devin O’Malley in an electronic mail. “Mr. Konkler has previously helped in a volunteer capacity doing advance on trips, but has not done so since June 2019. No one in the Office of the Vice President was aware of or had any role in Mr. Konkler receiving this contract.”
Researchers at American Bridge 21st Century, a Democratic opposition analysis group, recognized Konkler’s function.
White House volunteers will not be unusual, and sometimes they’re concerned in particular tasks such because the correspondence workplace, which reads and solutions messages despatched to the administration, or in vacation ornament efforts.
Government ethics consultants stated that battle of curiosity guidelines do apply to volunteers however rely upon the form of work being completed. “I’m worried about conflicts of interest but also about someone who isn’t a government employee knowing the [vice president’s] travel plans,” stated Scott Amey, basic counsel on the Project on Government Oversight. Konkler’s on-line biography states that he has held a Top Secret/Sensitive Compartmented Information safety clearance.
“The Bureau of Prisons took a risk awarding a $2.5 million contract to a new company,” Amey stated. “Let’s hope this ends up as a success story and not another example of a pop-up contractor trying to profit from an emergency situation.”
The contract itself was awarded beneath pressing circumstances. The Bureau of Prisons didn’t difficulty a request for proposals as a result of the pandemic “resulted in the need to limit competition due to compelling urgency,” Justin Long, a spokesman for the bureau, wrote in an electronic mail. The contract initially said June three because the date for robe supply to 6 totally different federal prisons, however Long stated in an electronic mail that the ultimate cargo was delivered on June 25.
BlackPoint’s contract is the most important of all federal contracts that particularly point out “surgical gowns,” in accordance with federal contracting information.
Records present that the company acquired three gives and that the contract was awarded beneath what are often called “simplified acquisition procedures,” a course of sometimes used for contracts involving smaller quantities of cash. Because of the nationwide emergency declared in response to the pandemic, the edge for utilizing simplified procedures was raised to $13 million when buying industrial objects resembling surgical robes. BlackPoint Distribution’s bid was the bottom, Long stated.
BlackPoint Distribution is one in all greater than 445 first-time federal contractors awarded contracts throughout the federal government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, in accordance with a ProPublica evaluation of federal contracting information. These new contractors have acquired greater than $2 billion in federal spending as of June 25, usually with out aggressive bidding or direct experience in the areas they received offers in.
After declaring a nationwide emergency on March 13, the federal authorities relaxed procurement guidelines to permit federal businesses to skip aggressive bidding at instances in favor of a extra streamlined course of that might ship private protecting tools and different merchandise shortly. But in doing so, it additionally has made offers with distributors who had been unable to meet orders or who’ve supplied insufficient tools.
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