FDA might have sidestepped acquisition regs

The Food and Drug Administration appears to have skirted standard federal contracting practices by awarding a sole-source contract to an Alaskan native firm that agreed to channel all work to Qorvis Communications, the Washington Post reports.

The FDA awarded the $300,000 public relations contract to Alaska Newspapers Inc. (ANI), a firm owned by an Alaska Native Corporation that qualifies for special federal set-asides in contracting.

The story describes the "unusual candor" with which FDA officials and others involved outlined in e-mails the contracting terms to ensure that Washington, D.C.-based Qorvis would perform the work as a subcontractor to ANI.

For example, one e-mail from an ANI consultant quoted by the Washington Post stated: "ANI will gladly serve as a prime for Qorvis on the FDA deal, knowing that the agency would intend to direct them to you as a subcontractor to perform all the work."

The ANI contract involved a public relations campaign to improve FDA's public image.

FDA deputy commissioner John Dyer, after being informed of the findings, told the newspaper that he had suspended the contract and ordered an independent investigation.

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