"Irregularities" found in Trump administration’s contract for company used to collect COVID-19 data

The COVID-19 hospital data system that bypasses the CDC has been plagued by delays and inaccuracies

Published August 6, 2020 3:15AM (EDT)

Donald Trump | Center for Disease Control (CDC) headquarters  (Getty Images/Salon)
Donald Trump | Center for Disease Control (CDC) headquarters (Getty Images/Salon)

This article originally appeared on AlterNet.

TeleTracking Technologies, a Pittsburg-based company known for developing software that hospitals use to track the status of patients, was awarded a multi-million-dollar contract from President Donald Trump's administration to collect COVID-19 data from hospitals in the U.S. — and National Public Radio is reporting that it found "irregularities" in the "process" that gave TeleTracking the contract.

According to NPR reporters Dina Temple-Raston and Tim Mak, NPR's investigation found that "the Department of Health and Human Services initially characterized the contract with TeleTracking as a no-bid contract. When asked about that, HHS said there was a 'coding error' and that the contract was actually competitively bid. The process by which HHS awarded the contract is normally used for innovative scientific research, not the building of government databases."

According to the NPR reporters, Carrie Kroll of the Texas Hospital Association "didn't give it a second thought" when, in April, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced it would be using TeleTracking as an option for collecting data on COVID-19. But she "balked" after "the HHS suddenly announced, in July, that hospitals could no longer report COVID data through the (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), but would instead, be required to do so through the HHS-TeleTracking system or their state health departments," Temple-Raston and Mak explain.

Temple-Raston and Mak note that NPR found that TeleTracking CEO Michael Zamagias "had links to the New York real estate world — and in particular, a firm that financed billions of dollars in projects with the Trump Organization."

Zamagias, according to Temple-Raston and Mak, "came from the real estate sector" and founded the real estate company, Zamagias Properties, in Pittsburgh in 1987. And Zamagias has long been a GOP donor, the NPR reporters observe.

Howard Cooper, a partner in the Manhattan-based company Cooper-Horowitz, had a business relationship with Zamagias. Neal Cooper, his son, told NPR, "(Cooper-Horowitz) did business with Michael in the late 1980s. I don't know if we ever did big deals with him, but we ran in the same circles. I learned a lot from Michael. He was always one or two steps ahead of the next guy."

Cooper-Horowitz, according to Neal Cooper, had extensive dealings with the Trump Organization. Neal Cooper told NPR, "I didn't handle Trump's account, but I've been in meetings with Trump.  We did tons of business with him — billions of dollars of business."

By Alex Henderson

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Covid-19 Trump Administration