Fix the pumps

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Cover up, Part 1


Today I'm starting a multipart series of reporting and analysis of the facts revealed in the Corps' internal report on the floodgate pumps and drives. Today's part focuses on what I believe is the latch to Pandora's box: a lie by Colonel Bedey on national television.

That lie on CNN leads to a horrible conclusion: the Corps has deliberately avoided enforcing its own contract to keep egg off its face and to protect its supplier. Doing so is, well, crazy, and possibly illegal. One would think this is enough for people to lose their jobs.

The Quote

On the June 11th edition of CNN's Anderson Cooper 360 (transcript here) there was the following exchange between Cooper and Colonel Bedey:

"COOPER: There was a report last year by an Army Corps of Engineers engineer who said it's not working. The pumps won't work. And just this past Friday three engineers backed up that report. So do the pumps work?

[...lots of other stuff about how much Bedey loved and appreciated being investigated...]

BEDEY: "...And in doing so [putting in the floodgates and pumps], we had to make some hard decisions. Some of those decisions were to forego all of the factory testing and get the pumps in the water, knowing that we would have to do all the testing and commissioning here on site.

"We've done that. We've been successful."

I've added the emphasis, because it opens up a can of worms. It is a slight variation on the standard line the Corps New Orleans District has used to explain away the installation of defective pumps last year, events revealed by the release of Ms. Maria Garzino's memo this past March 13th. Usually they say they wanted to get pumps in the water, and then "troubleshoot" them later. However, this time Bedey switched it up a bit and mentioned the testing that was so thoroughly eviscerated during the pumps' and drive units' time in Florida.

Bedey's used this line before, though not in such a prominent forum. In a piece of Corps propaganda from April of this year, he said, "We decided we would work out the final testing on the pumps in place."

The language for that testing in the contract calls for full performance testing of every pump system in accordance with Hydraulic Institute standards. This would mean running the pumps through their entire range of flows and pressures under as close to "real world" conditions as possible. This was the segment of the testing which was unofficially "eliminated" by unauthorized Corps personnel and MWI in Florida after just a week of running the pumps last April. The exact day of the decision was April 18, 2006. The modification to the contract dealing with changes in the testing did not come until two weeks later, on May 2, 2006. As we will see below, the official modification did not eliminate the contractual requirement for full performance testing.

Bedey is saying the Corps had/has every intention of still doing that contractually obligated full performance testing; they would just do it on site in New Orleans.

What's interesting is that, unlike many of the other standard excuses the Corps uses, this one can be truth-squaded with documentation now available courtesy of the internal investigation. So in this part of the report, we'll examine the truthfulness of Colonel Bedey's statement. In the next part of the report, we'll take a look at its implications and consequences...

We'll look at three sources, all from the Corps themselves: 1) the text of the internal report, 2) the relevant contract modification, and 3) contemporaneous internal emails.

Exhibit 1: The internal report

The report has extensive passages on the elimination of contract-required full performance testing. It has this to say about the current state of affairs:

"Modification P00004 revised the static test procedures by clarifying the actual steps to follow but no where did it delete the requirements of the full size water testing for each pump. This testing was not performed in accordance with the contract requirements and a significant credit is due to the Government for the nonperformance of it."

So the requirement for full size testing has yet to be fulfilled. That's odd, because Bedey said on CNN they've done that testing and it's been "successful." Hmmm...

Exhibit 2: P00004

As the quote above from the internal report shows, Bedey was talking about a May, 2006 modification to the floodgate pump contract called P00004, which dealt with testing of the pumps and drives. The entire text of P00004 is included as Attachment #11 to the internal report. It is the only modification given such treatment, which attests to its importance.

For your convenience, I've broken it out as its own file. We know that P00004 is the only modification relating to changes in testing because the internal report acerbically notes, "Modification P00004 (See Attachment #11) was the alleged modification that revised the testing requirements of the contract."

Let me cut to the chase on this one - there's no mention in P00004 of eliminating the complete factory testing and replacing it with complete field testing in accordance with HI standards.

Assumedly, if Bedey were telling the truth, some mention of changing the testing from the factory to the site would have been included P00004.

So the only relevant modification to the contract does not mention what Bedey said it mentions. Hmm...

Exhibit 3: The emails

The internal report also contains contemporaneous internal emails among Corps personnel assigned to the Pump Team. Were Colonel Bedey telling the truth, the movement of the full performance testing of all pumps from Florida to New Orleans would surely show up in these emails.

Instead, three critical emails from late May, 2006 (when these pumps were supposedly - according to Bedey - to be fully tested) show no evidence of a testing plan for the site. They also show no evidence of a paperwork trail to back up Bedey's assertion.

The emails are on Adobe pages 122, 123, and 124. I have broken them out as their own link here.

First is a May 17, 2006 email from Joe Thomas to Maria Garzino and Dan Bradley. It states:

"Would like to establish a QC/QA program for field testing of the engines and pumps. Need some help to determine what testing is needed; parameters of the field test and what should be recorded for these tests and what is deemed an acceptable field trail [sic] run. What field tests will be run? How long? Acceptance criteria? Flow measurements? Can anyone develop a document so that we may record pertinent data and information. Such items as pressure; temperatures of system ??? Any help would be great."

Mr. Thomas appears unaware of Colonel Bedey's supposed (read: fictional) plans for full performance testing of all pumps.

Next is a May 17, 2006 response email from Maria Garzino, the Pump Team Leader who was then on site in New Orleans, and would obviously be the person best qualified to know if there had been any plans to move the factory testing to the field. It is sent to a bunch of people, including Jim St. Germain's cohort, Dan Bradley. The tone of the email is almost pleading.

"I do not have any information on how we are to proceed with field testing – I am unaware of any direction given by MWI as to what they envision for field testing (I have asked on many occasions for this info and have not to date received it – if it has been sent, possibly Dan [Bradley] has it then?) – I am also unaware of any direction that Task Force Guardian has given on how we are to proceed on our own as far as field testing of the Pumps and Drive Units – I have heard there is discussion in this area, but I am unaware of any direction given."

The person who would be responsible for overseeing field testing that should mimic the factory testing (which she herself witnessed) had no information about field testing.

There still remains the remote possibility that Ms. Garzino just didn't have the right memo in her inbox. That possibility is foreclosed by the email to which her email is attached. That email, dated May 31, 2007, is from Jim Bartek to Steve Farkas and Bob Hoffman (why in the world is Ms. Garzino not included?). It states,

"I have not received a memo from Jim [St. Germain] regarding testing. All I have received is the email below that I think you sent out [Ms. Garzino's May 17th email]: I would agree with the recommendations except to add monitor vibration. Keep in mind this was a supply contract and the spec is very vague regarding field testing. It just says 'The pump manufacturer shall provide for final inspection and testing of the system and shall make necessary adjustments to the control system prior to actual start-up tests. Start-up tests and demonstration shall be performed by the pump manufacturer’s representative and the Contractor, and witnessed by the Government…'"

Notice what Mr. Bartek is citing when referring to field testing: the original contract! He's not referring to this phantom modification that Bedey is making up that somehow justified speeding up and eviscerating the factory testing. Bartek's citing the original contract.

So the contemporaneous emails show no evidence of what Bedey asserts.

The exhibits lead to one conclusion

Thus, we have the internal investigation, the relevant contract modification, and internal emails all saying the same thing: the Corps New Orleans District willfully ignored a vital part of its own contract; after P00004, there was no plan for full performance testing of the pumps, and there still isn't a plan for full pump-and-drive performance testing to this day.

Put another way, Colonel Bedey has made up a fairy tale to cover up something far more disturbing. The Corps was flying (is flying?) by the seat of their pants when it came (comes?) to the on-site testing, working without the paperwork to back themselves up and safeguard the government's (and the taxpayers') interests. Bedey, St. Germain, and Bradley know this. This is a major, major violation of construction contract administration. But it gets worse.

In the next part we'll look at why they're doing this and the consequences of not conducting full performance tests.


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