Holding the Government Accountable

The New $435 Hammer or Perhaps Another Tanker-Lease "Deal"?

In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, FEMA rented 16 mid-size vehicles for one year and two more mid-size vehicles for six months each for a total of $190,944, the Clarion Ledger reported.

FEMA officials justify the costs as being cheaper than buying 18 SUVs outright (despite the fact that SUVs are not mid-size cars). In a procurement world that preaches “best value,” is it prudent to argue that renting a car for a year at $11,232 ($30.77/day) is better than purchasing a vehicle for say, $13,000? At the end of the year, these cars will be handed back to Enterprise Rent-A-Car and Uncle Sam will have nothing to show for it. With a purchase, FEMA would still have the vehicles at its disposal and could either: 1) continue using them, or 2) sell them to the highest bidder (for probably more than $2,000 each). Additionally, couldn't FEMA have negotiated a better deal because they are renting several cars for an entire year?

The Air Force took a lot of heat when it inked a deal with Boeing to lease tankers for a price that was higher than it would have been to purchase them. Did FEMA make the right call on this one, or is this just another example of an agency disregarding the big picture because “it's just the taxpayer's dollars?” Or perhaps this should just be added to the growing list of rush-jobs by a FEMA that simply wasn't prepared to handle a crisis.