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Company's protest to border wall prototype bid dismissed

SAN DIEGO (AP) - A U.S. government watchdog agency on Friday dismissed a company's objections to the bidding process to build a prototype for a proposed border wall.

The U.S. Government Accountability Office found that Fort Worth, Texas-based PennaGroup did not file comments in time to protest the bid.

"Allowing PennaGroup to file its comments late would be inconsistent with our purpose of providing a fair opportunity for protesters to have their protests considered without unduly disrupting the procurement process," Susan A. Poling, the agency's general counsel, wrote in the decision.

The dismissal comes days after President Donald Trump threatened to force a federal government shutdown unless Congress agrees to fund the wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.

PennaGroup submitted comments by email on the final day allowed for complaints but these were derailed by an internet service disruption during stormy Texas weather, said Michael Evangelista-Ysasaga, the company's chief executive. He said the company plans to sue over the decision.

"It's certainly not over," he said.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection said it expected to award contracts for wall prototypes in San Diego in the next few weeks but didn't rule out the chance of further delays.

"We note that, with the award of contracts, unsuccessful bidders will have new opportunities to file protests, which could further delay construction.

However we are confident in our processes, and we will proceed deliberately, to ensure compliance with the law," the agency said in a statement.

The project was a cornerstone of Trump's presidential campaign and has been flashpoint for his critics.

The Trump administration said last month the complaints by PennaGroup and another company had delayed the project until November. The administration had initially planned to begin construction in San Diego by June.

The prototypes are expected to be awarded to eight to 10 companies for $200,000 to $500,000 each.

Border officials say it should be impossible for people to climb on their own and impenetrable to sledgehammers and battery-operated tools trying to damage it for a full hour.

 


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