Jan. 13. As Sunday was the 10th anniversary of the earthquake that devastated Haiti in 2010, and as Puerto Rico continues to suffer from a two-week-long series of temblors, a contractor in Mobile, Alabama, this week faces a key court hearing as he seeks justice for relief work done after a disaster 22 years ago.

The contractor seeks damages for nonpayment of what originally was $51 million of disaster relief work his company did after Hurricane Mitch ravaged Honduras in 1998. The U.S. government shamefully opposes the contractor’s efforts to be repaid. Its position makes it less likely other American contractors will risk major time and money to help the government provide effective relief even when directed by law.

In a bit of almost morbid irony, this case of the U.S. government refusing to protect a contractor from perfidy in Honduras runs converse to the case I wrote about here 12 years ago in which the U.S. government imprisoned a businessman for violating a Honduran law that even Honduras said had been repealed. So, the U.S. government will harshly enforce a Honduran law that no longer exists but will not honor a U.S. government contract for a citizen rooked by Honduran subterfuge.

The lawsuit being heard Thursday, which now is a qui tam, or a whistleblower, case, involves a situation in which the U.S. Agency for International Development oversaw the contract for post-hurricane water and sewer reconstruction that enlisted a company now known as MBS. USAID eventually gave MBS a certificate of appreciation for excellent work on the projects. Although done under USAID auspices, the work was performed through something called a Host Country Contract whereby the USAID money goes to the foreign government, which in turn is responsible for providing certification so the contractor gets paid….

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