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No contest for FDA public relations

This article was originally published in The Tan Sheet

Executive Summary

The House Energy and Commerce Committee calls an FDA campaign to improve its public image "a reckless use of taxpayer dollars." The panel is investigating the award of a sole source contract for the public relations initiative to its probe of "administrative integrity" at the agency. More serious than the campaign's waste of precious resources are "the numerous violations of federal procurement and contracting laws that appear to have occurred," the committee tells HHS Secretary Michael Leavitt in an Oct. 2 letter. The small business designation of Alaska Newspapers, Inc., which was selected to direct the PR campaign, allowed the $300,000 contract to be let without going out to bid. Alaska Newspapers subcontracted the work to Qorvis Communications, which has done PR work for the trade group Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America. A review of records supplied by the agency in August "suggests that FDA and Qorvis worked together to intentionally circumvent federal contracting regulations," the committee contends. FDA, which has put a hold on all activities under the contract, says Alaska Newspapers certified it would perform at least 51 percent of the work, but an independent investigation was requested Sept. 22

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