Restore Louisiana contract scrapped among conflict of interest claims

    Louisiana has voided a planned flood-recovery contract, with the state’s top procurement officer Paula Tregre saying key staff involved in the deal shouldn’t be allowed to participate because they have a conflict of interest and may have given the winning bidder an unfair advantage.

    The potentially lucrative, federally financed Restore Louisiana contract overseen by Gov. John Bel Edwards’ administration is intended to help people whose homes were damaged by the 2016 floods, either with rebuilding or buyouts.

    Tregre, whose office oversees the bid review, rescinded the contract award May 10 and called for a new evaluation team to choose among the two other vendors who sought the work.

    Tregre found several flaws in the contract award. Among them, she said, winning bidder Hunt Guillot and Associates, known as HGA, intended to use a subcontractor with two employees who had obvious conflicts of interest. In particular, Tregre said one worker, Stacy Bonnaffons, has been a contract employee with the state’s disaster recovery agency as it developed the request for bids and appeared to have supervisory authority over at least one bid evaluator.

    “It is impossible to ignore or underestimate the impact which Ms. Bonnaffons’ name listed as one of HGA’s ‘three most relevant key staff’ may have had upon some of the (bid) evaluators,” Tregre wrote.

    Baton Rouge-based Hunt Guillot said the Louisiana ethics board in April cleared Bonnaffons and the other subcontractor employee to do the new contract work. The company said Tregre was wrong in determining a conflict of interest.

    Hunt Guillot has appealed Tregre’s decision to Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne. The flood recovery contractor is supposed to help Restore Louisiana with management of a program that is winding down rebuilding assistance and moving toward buyouts of flood-destroyed property from the March and August 2016 floods, along with other flood mitigation work. Read the full story from The Associated Press.

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