The FDA's Image Problem
It seems as though the FDA is riling up Rep. John D. Dingell (D-MI), chairman of the Committee on Energy and Commerce, and Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI), chairman of the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee.
The lawmakers, long critical about how the FDA has been operating, are now miffed the agency apparently has not been entirely cooperative with their efforts to dig into the particulars of a public relations contract inked by the agency earlier this year.
Oversight sabers are rattling, according to a letter and statement the lawmakers released yesterday. From the statement:
"It is disconcerting that the FDA may be spending money on public relations when it is dangerously short of resources it needs to protect our nation's food and drug supplies," said Dingell. "The FDA would be wise to swiftly produce the records we have requested and make available for interviews the FDA staff we need to speak with to complete our investigation."
"'The FDA may have run afoul of Federal procurement and contracting laws while concocting this publicity campaign," said Stupak. "It is offensive that the FDA is using tax dollars to shore up their public image rather than using these limited resources to patch the gaping holes in our food and drug safety net. We intend to find out who at FDA thought up this public relations scheme, why they authorized it, and how they justify spending money on it."
You Post readers may recall the story about the deal.
Under fire from the lawmakers and others, the FDA decided to have a public relations campaign that would "create and foster a lasting positive public image of the agency for the American public," according to agency documents.
But. There was no competition of the sort prescribed by government policy. The agency instead worked through an Alaska Native corporation that did not have to compete. Under the plan, the ANC would pass the work onto a Washington firm favored by an FDA consultant (who by the way once worked closely in the private sector with said firm).
The agency suspended the contract after the Post brought its findings to their attention. And Dingell and company dug even deeper into the questionable (by the FDA's own judgment) arrangements.
That's what the letter yesterday is about. It asks that six agency employees, including contracting officials, public relations folks and the chief of staff, be made available as soon as possible for interviews.
And by the way:
"FDA staff members associated with the public relations contract have been advised that, if the Committee's information requests are not fulfilled by this Friday, they can expect to receive subpoenas," said the statement accompanying the letter.
By Robert O'Harrow |
November 19, 2008; 11:49 AM ET
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