WASHINGTON – Just before budgets were frozen and thousands of government staff were sent home without pay, the U.S. State Department awarded a contract of up to $5 million to a glassmaker for handcrafted tableware.
The five-year deal, starting at a minimum of $25,000 but capped at $5 million, went to Simon Pearce of Vermont for “lead-free stem and tableware,” State deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf said.
Harf denied reports that the contract had been squeaked into the final days of fiscal 2013 just as a government shutdown loomed on Oct. 1.
“There was no sort of $5 million midnight purchase, trying to get it just in under the wire, of fine china,” Harf said. “And its contract was not connected in any way to the shutdown.”
The contract was approved late in the year as the State Department’s operating plan was not approved by Congress until September, she said.
The State Department has only had to furlough around 340 of its 70,000 employees worldwide so far, and has frozen only a few programs amid the political paralysis. Harf said the tableware will be used at U.S. embassies and facilities around the world.