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05-29-20 May in the news


Aid group share ideas and help your family neighbors those most affected by covid nineteen support by be NSF railway moving our economy for over one hundred sixty five years our vision to operate injury accident free with safety programs training and technology more at Bien SF dot com slash tribal relations native voice one the native American radio network. This is native America Calling Monica Brain. Violence continued in Minneapolis for third straight night with arson fires vandalism and confrontations between riot police and citizens a native youth center was caught up in the destruction. We'll hear more about that in a minute. The Gun Lake tribe in Michigan will open their casino on June eighth. We'll talk with the tribal chairman about the steps. They are taking to keep gamblers safe. Also we'll check in with an epidemiologist and get the low down on what exactly contact tracing is and how it could be used to stop the spread of Covid. Nineteen but I the nonprofit news outlet PROPUBLICA broke a story last week about the three million about a three million dollar government contract a former White House officials secured to provide respirator masks to the Navajo nation to Navajo nation hospitals. The Indian Health Service awarded. Zach Quintas the contract just eleven days after he started his company the IHS now says that the masks are quote not approved by the FDA or covered by the emergency use authorization for use in healthcare settings by healthcare providers and quote join us. Now as Derek Willis. He is the news applications developer at PROPUBLICA. Welcome to native America Calling Derek. Thanks for having me Monica. All right so give us a little bit more about this story. We I noticed this contract my colleague tour body and I would. I noticed this contract in early. May when it was awarded and it was unusual for a lot of reasons. One is that you don't really see a lot of you know protective equipment suppliers with the name Zach Quintas Llc. And that's really what drew our attention to it first of all but also because it was specifically for masks and it was specifically for mass for the Indian Health Service Which sort of at that point? In time? We've noticed a lot of kind of lot of purchases a lot of contracts being issued by a lot of federal agencies seeking. These respirator masks which were in. Great demand and supply was kind of drying up. Not only in the US but we'll wide and the other thing that we noticed about this contract that specified that it was seeking what are known as k n ninety five masks and those are separate distinguished from n ninety five masks because they are can ninety. Five masks are made in China and so that also kind of you know sort of off a bell in our head because for masks that are produced outside the United States for them to be used in medical or health care settings the food and Drug Administration has to approve them and that can take a while because they have to sometimes do factory inspections they. Have you know there's a process for doing that? And so our question was essentially. Where are these masks really coming from? Like what manufacturer and are they up to the standards that the FDA says other acquired for use in healthcare settings and the more that we looked into it the more we found out that at least initially. They told us that. At least some of the masks were not usable in healthcare settings and now we know that That all the masks are not usable in healthcare settings and so like it is the more we've looked at this the more we pulled on the thread. The more we've found okay so. Ihs PUT OUT A bid. Four the K N Ninety. Five masks is that they put out several. Yes and so Like other agencies they absolutely have been seeking seeking Protective equipment in lots of forms. But in this case this mask this contract was not put out to competitive bidding as sort of normal federal contracting a lot of federal contracting is until this was essentially they were emailing people asking. Hey can you procure masks for us and that twenty was trying to form a contracting business and got back from said yes I can deliver a million respirators for you By a certain date and they signed the contract And so it wasn't sort of done through specifically you know sort of normal you know Procurement regulations but as we're in the middle of pandemic a lot of those regulations a lot of those processes like are have been weighed in the sense that like no that the government wants to be able to buy things as quickly as possible and so in order to do that. They've said you can give out contracts to you know a single source without competitive usual competitive bidding. And that's what happened in this case I mean. Do you think that. Ihs knew that they were asking for masks that they could not use in their health. Facilities got what's not clear From our reporting yet I like it. It's not entirely clear whether or not contracting agents were officials at the agency's new or thought that these masks would not be usable This is a a really key. It's been really chaotic. Couple of months in terms of the supply chain for protective equipment in US and around the world and so what that has meant. Is that almost anyone saying that they can get a hold of protective equipment? Like respirators is probably going to. At least get listen in at least be heard by contracting officials. I government officials who are seeking the by this stuff and so it's not totally clear because the contract itself only specifies that they'd be Can Ninety five respirators and at the time and there still are a handful of Chinese manufacturers who produce these kinds of asks that do meet federal standards? There are some of those that exist. Okay we but what what we found out now is that none of those folks provided these mashed them much. Ihs And so. What are we knew about? Zach Quintas contractor. Yeah he was a former deputy chief of staff When when John Kelly was chief of staff at the White House and he's a former coastguard. A number of the Coast Guard recently retired last year. And so we know that this is his first worry into federal contracting prior to this he had not been involved in federal contracting and had not received any federal contracts. This was this three million dollar contract. My was literally the first federal contract that he had received as part of this new this new career new business. Have I mean? Have you ever heard of a situation like this where someone registered a business and gets a three million dollar contract eleven days later? I mean if you'd asked me that question a few months ago I would say I heard of it happening occasionally. What we have found in in the last two months is that this is.

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