Disaster Capitalism

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Tuesday, 09 February 2010 15:40
The Miami Herald reports today that at least two US firms, AshBritt Inc. and DRC group, are using powerful connections both inside Haiti and the US to try and secure contracts in the aftermath of the earthquake. As the Herald notes:
It's unclear at this point who will be awarding the cleanup contracts, but there is big money to be made in the rubble of some 225,000 collapsed homes and at least 25,000 government and office buildings.

AshBritt found itself involved in controversy after Hurrican Katrina, when "some questioned whether AshBritt's political donations or lobbyists paved the way for its fat federal contracts." The Miami Herald reports that these questions led to Congressional hearings which:
[A]ired objections that local contractors were passed over in favor of AshBritt. A 2006 congressional report examining federal contract waste and abuse noted AshBritt used multiple layers of subcontractors, each of whom got paid while passing on the actual work to others.

An August 2006 House Committee on Government Reform investigation revealed that:
Ashbritt Inc., one of the prime contractors hired by the Corps, testified in Congress that it received approximately $23 per cubic yard for debris removal in Mississippi.38 In contrast, a local contractor testified at the same hearing that it could have removed the debris for just $12.90 per cubic yard, a savings of 44% for the taxpayer.39

The Miami Herald, in 2005, ran an article on AshBritt1 looking at the origins of the company and its work after Hurricanes Katrina and Andrew. As the Miami Herald notes:
AshBritt's story offers a glimpse into the big-money, fiercely competitive and often erratic business of disaster response, which has thrived recently with a string of natural disasters.
1 Patrick Danner, "AshBritt Cleans up in Wake of Storms," The Miami Herald, December 5, 2005. Accessed on Nexis, February 9, 2010.