Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Subcontracting system inflates cleanup costs

The Boston Globe:
"How many contractors does it take to haul a pile of tree branches? If it's government work, at least four: a contractor, his subcontractor, the subcontractor's subcontractor, and finally, the local man with a truck and chainsaw.

If the job is patching a roof, the answer may be five contractors, or even six. At the bottom tier is a Spanish-speaking crew making less than 10 cents for every square foot of tarpaulin installed. At the top, the prime contractor bills the government 15 times as much for the same job.

For the thousands of contractors in the Katrina recovery business, this is the way the system works -- a system that federal officials say is the same after every major disaster but that local government officials, watchdog groups, and the contractors themselves say is one reason why costs for the cleanup continue to swell.
''If this is 'normal,' we have a serious problem in this country,' said Benny Rousselle, president of Plaquemines Parish, a hurricane-ravaged district near New Orleans.

''The federal government ought to be embarrassed about what is happening,' Rousselle said. ''If local governments tried to run things this way, we'd be run out of town.'"

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