Former White House aide won $3M contract to supply masks amid pandemic

Former White House aide won $3M contract to supply masks amid pandemic
© MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images

A former White House aide received a $3 million contract from the federal government to supply respirator masks to Navajo Nation hospitals in New Mexico and Arizona, some of which now appear to be faulty.

Zach Fuentes, President TrumpDonald John TrumpFormer employees critique EPA under Trump in new report Fired State Department watchdog says Pompeo aide attempted to 'bully' him over investigations Virginia senator calls for Barr to resign over order to clear protests MORE’s former deputy chief of staff, won the contract just 11 days after he founded a company to sell personal protective equipment to help deal with the coronavirus. He secured the contract with the Indian Health Service (IHS) despite having no prior federal contracting experience.

However, the IHS told The Hill that 247,000 of the masks, worth about $800,000, might be unsuitable for surgeries, and another 130,400 were not the type specified in the procurement data.

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The IHS added that it is in the process of verifying Fuentes’s claim that that all of his company’s masks were certified by the Food and Drug Administration. The agency confirmed to ProPublica that Fuentes’s company said the masks were from China, but no manufacturer was specified. 

The IHS did not immediately respond to requests for comment from The Hill.

Procurement data from the IHS showed that Fuentes’s company was chosen from a group of six because of its favorable price and terms. 

Fuentes charged $3.24 per mask, which is more expensive than the pre-pandemic rate of roughly $1, but far less than the prices under other federal contracts.

Fuentes denied that his connections to the White House helped him secure the contract. 

“Nobody referred me from the White House. It was nothing like that,” he told ProPublica. “Emphatically no.” 

The Navajo Nation, which spans across Utah, New Mexico and Arizona, has been hit hard by the coronavirus, with 4,434 confirmed cases and 147 deaths as of Friday.