Audit: North Dakota firm was properly awarded wall contract

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — The Defense Department’s internal watchdog said its investigation into a $400 million border wall contract found it was properly awarded to a North Dakota firm whose owner used multiple appearances on Fox News to push for the job.

The Pentagon’s inspector general on Monday released results of the audit, requested last year by House Homeland Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson, a Mississippi Democrat.

Thompson asked for the review of the contract awarded to Dickinson, North Dakota-based Fisher Sand and Gravel Co. by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to ensure that the company’s bid met standards and that the contract was awarded in accordance with federal procurement regulations.

“We reviewed Fisher Sand and Gravel’s proposal, compared it to the solicitation, and agreed with (the Corps’) assessment that it was the LPTA (Lowest Price Technically Acceptable) and was properly awarded the contract,” the audit said.

Company President Tommy Fisher is a GOP supporter and has appeared on conservative media touting his company as the best pick for building the wall that former President Donald Trump made a priority.

The company was awarded a contract to build 31 miles of wall in Arizona, part of a series of contracts to push out increased mileage. Fisher had made a number of appearances on Trump’s favorite cable news channel — Fox News — talking about his desire to win a contract. His firm, though, had little experience with such construction and a previous proposal was rejected.

The company has long claimed it can build a U.S.-Mexico border wall cheaper and faster than its competitors.

North Dakota’s congressional delegation, all of whom are Republicans and ardent Trump supporters, has long touted Fisher’s company as the best pick for the work.

Trump repeatedly urged the Army Corps to award contracts to Fisher Sand and Gravel, and Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, also supported the company’s selection.

Thompson, in requesting the audit, wrote, “These actions raise concerns about the possibility of inappropriate influence on (the Corps’) contracting decision.”

The inspector general’s report said Corps officials testified that “there was no undue influence,” and that none of the documents reviewed by investigators “provided evidence that there was undue influence from the White House or members of Congress” that affected the award of the contract to Fisher Sand and Gravel.

The report, however, noted investigators weren’t able to get answers from some Corps employees because they were instructed by administration lawyers “to not answer our specific questions about communications between the White House and senior (Corps) officials.”

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