Spotlight on US contractor in Iraq

Ex-Haliburton subsidiary and Pentagon's largest contractor accused of fraud and waste.

    The Pentagon has been accused of encouraging a "culture of excess" in Iraq [EPA]

    The company reported record profits in 2007, and despite the complaints, just won a new army supply contract for the Middle East.


    Byron Dorgan, a Democratic senator, said it was "shameful" that contractors who had performed poorly were being awarded fresh contracts.


    "Does anybody care? They're still getting contracts," he said.


    Waste and fraud


    An investigation for the US defence department has found that much of the more than $100bn US taxpayers have spent on reconstruction in Iraq has gone to waste.


    And the latest quarterly report found more instances of shoddy and unfinished projects.


    Auditors found that out of 47,000 projects, nearly one in eight were terminated before completion due to costs overruns or security problems.


    Barry Godfrey says he was harassed for
    standing up against KBR fraud [EPA]

    A former KBR administrator who accused the US firm of hiding waste and fraud, said he was harassed for refusing to authorise a $4m bill for food it never served.


    "I have been shocked by the millions of dollars of waste that I witnessed in contracting in Iraq," Barry Godfrey told US senators.


    "But the fact is that nothing has been done to correct the problem."


    A former US government auditor says she was sacked after she objected to a $7bn guaranteed-profit contract that KBR received without competitive bidding.


    "The award of this contract represents the worst contract abuse I witnessed during my professional career," Bunnatine Greenhouse told senators.


    Powerless to act


    KBR has refused to respond to its critics during the unofficial hearings and the Democrats holding them have no power to force its officials to testify.


    Republicans have blocked Democrats' efforts to set up a congressional committee with the legal authority to investigate war profiteering.


    But Pratap Chatterjee, a director of global corporation watchdog Corpwatch, said "Americans are not interested" in the hearings.


    "The hearings are about, 'are our troops getting good enough care'?" he said. 


    Although the US justice department has prosecuted several former KBR employees for corruption and the company has refunded some money from overcharging, the government has not charged the company with any criminal offences.


    'Culture of excess'


    But Corpwatch's Chatterjee said "as opposed to companies profiteering from soldiers, the US is spending what it takes to keep its soldiers there".


    It was the US military which "encourages KBR to spend as much as possible to make the soldiers happy, to make them comfortable", he said.


    "It's a culture of excess there - the way the soldiers are fed and treated. If you go to the big bases it looks like a 50s movie set."


    He also pointed out that since civilian contractors outnumber US soldiers in Iraq, companies such as KBR - which accounts for a third of the contractors - have made themselves indispensable.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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