Gulf Watch: GAO finds no wrongdoing in N.O. pump contract

The Government Accountability Office has released a report into concerns that cronyism tainted a deal that led to more than 30 problematic flood-control pumps being installed in New Orleans. The federal watchdog agency found that while the Army Corps of Engineers rushed to install the pumps, there was no wrongdoing:

In order to increase the likelihood that pumping capacity would be in place when needed, the Corps utilized several tools to expedite and streamline the acquisition process. The Corps appears to have had a valid reason for each of the iterative decisions it made at each stage of the procurement process. The cumulative effect of these decisions resulted in one supplier -- Moving Water Industries Corporation -- being in the strongest competitive position to receive the contract for the pumping systems.

A Florida firm headed by a major Republican donor and former business partner of Jeb Bush, MWI is currently being sued by the U.S. Justice Department over allegations of corrupt taxpayer-backed dealings in Nigeria.

Of the two pump suppliers that the Corps considered for the New Orleans job, only MWI had actually manufactured a pump with the specifications being sought, according to the GAO.

However, the pumps -- which were plagued with numerous mechanical problems -- will come under more scrutiny. That's because the emergency war spending bill approved by Congress last week and signed into law by President Bush includes language seeking a technical review of the pumps, thanks to Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.). Said the senator in a statement on the legislation:

"Our recovery depends on confidence in our flood-control system," Sen. Landrieu said. "Reports that the Corps of Engineers installed faulty and untested pumps are gravely troubling. The supplemental spending bill will allow a technical review that will demonstrate what needs to be fixed so that we can make sure our communities are safe from flooding during future disasters."