Source AP ©

Investigation shows no fraud in New Orleans pump contract

Congress's investigation displayed no evidence of fraud or improper influence in the placing of faulty pumps along New Orleans' drainage canals before the start of last year's hurricane season.

Sen. Mary Landrieu's comments come at the conclusion of an investigation into whether the Army Corps of Engineers mishandled the bidding for post-Katrina drainage pumps that proved to be defective. The Corps, in laying out specifications for the pumps during the bid solicitation process, had lifted language - down to the typographical errors - from the catalog of the Florida company that would win the contract.

Landrieu said the Government Accountability Office found that the Corps was in a rush to get pumps in place prior to the June 1 start of the 2006 hurricane season. The 2005 season had produced Hurricane Katrina, when failures in the city's flood protection led to inundation of 80 percent of New Orleans.

A May 2006 memo by a Corps inspector working on the pump project, provided to The Associated Press earlier this year, warned that the pumps were faulty and would not work if needed to remove water during a hurricane. GAO opened its investigation after the memo surfaced.

The Corps has insisted that the pumps would have worked, but last year's unexpectedly mild hurricane season never put them to the test. The pumps have since been overhauled.

Landrieu, in a telephone news conference, said the GAO told her that the corps should have been more transparent about problems with the pumps and the rushed schedule for testing.

"The greatest weakness was the corps assuring people this was in place when it wasn't," Landrieu said.

Top officials at MWI, the company that won the contract, have been major contributors to the Republican Party and, in the 1980s, had employed former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, President George W. Bush's brother, to market its pumps.

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