The energy giant and its subsidiary Kellogg Brown & Root have been accused by three US lawmakers of fleecing ordinary American taxpayers by charging "inflated prices" for selling petrol to US troops in Iraq.

Senator Joseph Lieberman and Representatives John Dingell and Henry Waxman on Tuesday called for a US Defence Department investigation of the company.

They said Halliburton was charging US taxpayers $2.65 per gallon to transport gasoline from Kuwait to Iraq, while the Iraqi state oil company paid only 96 cents per gallon.

The Defence Department's own fuel distribution centre also paid considerably less, between $1.08 dollars and $1.19 per gallon.

Letter

In a letter to the Inspector General of the Defence Department, the three lawmakers have insisted "transparency and accountability are essential if the efforts to reconstruct Iraq are to succeed".

"We hope you will help restore transparency and accountability to this process by undertaking the important investigations described in this letter"

Three US lawmakers



"We hope you will help restore transparency and accountability to this process by undertaking the important investigations described in this letter," the trio said.

But Halliburton is no stranger to controversy and has had its share of the spotlight even in the past.

Alarmed that the company had cornered Iraqi reconstruction contracts worth $500 million, other congressmen have questioned why so much work had been given to Halliburton's subsidiary Kellogg Brown & Root (KBR) without any competition.

Instead of asking for fresh bids, the Pentagon awarded Halliburton new contracts based on a 2001 contract it had won for supplies to US troops.

This led to allegations Halliburton was being favoured for its ties to Cheney.

'Insult'

But Halliburton denies any wrongdoing.

"Based on the facts, to allege that KBR is overcharging for this needed service is an insult to the KBR employees who are performing this dangerous mission to help bring fuel to the people of Iraq," Wendy Hall, Halliburton's Public Relations Manager told Aljazeera.net.

Halliburton says it is taking huge
risks as attacks continue in Iraq

"Our Halliburton people are sharing the hardships and the risks. Three have lost their lives while working in Iraq and many others have been injured in attacks," she said.

"The company's 2% fee is less than the markup for products at a local gas station or supermarket," Hall argued.

The three Democrat politicians also allege some of the fuel payments to Halliburton come out of the Development Fund for Iraq, which is meant to pay for humanitarian efforts in the occupied country.

The Fund, some non-government agencies say, is being mismanaged and the latest furore over "inflated prices" is likely to fuel the charge further.