NPR, doing the type of investigative work that the "right-wing" media routinely fails or refuses to do whenever it might implicate Trump for malfeasance, has revealed that Advanced Technologies International, Inc. (ATI) was the initial recipient of this $6 billion. Upon receipt of funds and contracts signed, ATI then divvied out this Operation Warp Speed money in the allotted amounts to the aforementioned drug companies, at Trump's request.
While we were aware of the fact that Novavax received $1.6 billion, Pfizer $1.95 billion, Sanofi $1.79 billion, and Johnson & Johnson $1 billion, it was only very recently disclosed that none of these companies were awarded government contracts directly. This is significant because funneling the money through ATI first has made each of the associated contracts inaccessible by the public.
As revealed by NPR, "the contracts between the pharmaceutical companies and ATI may not be available through public records requests, and additional documents are exempt from public disclosure for five years" due to the fact that the Trump administration took advantage of what is known as an Other Transaction Agreement, or OTA, which requires far less transparency than the usual Federal Acquisition Regulation, or FAR.
FAR, which is the more typical contract method utilized by the federal government, contains detailed stipulations established by Congress to ensure that taxpayer money is going to where it is supposed to go. While FAR is a time-consuming process, sometimes taking years to complete, it is preferable to OTA in that it helps to ensure full transparency and accountability.
Unfortunately for America, the Trump administration utilized an OTA to send billions to Big Pharma as part of Operation Warp Speed, which means it could take years, and possibly never, to learn how this money was spent.
"A number of analysts warn that along with the potential benefits come significant risks, including potentially diminished oversight and exemption from laws and regulations designed to protect government and taxpayer interests," wrote the Congressional Research Service in a 2019 report about the rising use of OTAs by the Department of Defense.
OTAs often eliminate other safeguards meant to protect taxpayers as well, including things like the Bayh-Dole clauses, which allow the government to "march in" and take control of a drug or vaccine in the event that a manufacturer is caught using federal tax dollars to price-gouge consumers with the end product.
NPR and several partners have attempted in vain to get answers from the Trump administration about what these Operation Warp Speed OTA contracts entail. In lieu of being able to utilize the Freedom of Information Act, which does not pertain to said contracts due to how they were deliberately set up for secrecy, NPR tried asking the administration directly for any records they might be able to procure, which was denied.
"With respect to the contracts, the contracts are between ourselves, the United States government and private entities, and they are releasable to an extent," stated Lt. Gen. Paul Ostrowski, who is in charge of Operation Warp Speed's efforts on supply, production and distribution.
"And I will tell you that they entail information that allows us to all know that we paid a fair and reasonable price for each one of these vaccines as we went forward," he added somewhat cryptically.
To keep up with the latest news about the Wuhan cornonavirus (covid-19) and Operation Warp Speed, be sure to check out Pandemic.news.
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