Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Billions easy come, easy go

Another spectacular legacy of the Bush-Cheney White House is the performance of its favorite no-bid contractor for work in Iraq, KBR, which has been paid $32 billion—billion with a B—since 2001 despite ongoing and repeated charges of price rigging, fraud, poor management and lousy construction.

KBR is so aware of its negligence and possible criminal conduct that the company has relocated its executive offices to the Persian Gulf country of Dubai, where senior executives are safe from being extradited to the United States for trial.

In addition to sordid accusations of an employee's gang rape and the electrocution of at least six U.S. service personnel because of faulty bathroom wiring on one of its projects, KBR now has the distinction of making a small fortune as the builder and refurbisher of mess halls.

The Wartime Contracting Commission, which has been auditing and inspecting KBR projects, reports that the firm was paid $3.36 million to fix up a small dining facility at Camp Delta in Iraq. Then, without mentioning the repaired mess hall, KBR accepted a new contract from a disorganized and slipshod Pentagon procurement office to build a new, $30 million dining hall that will be completed in December—but would be used only for about two years until U.S. troops are withdrawn.

Oh, as a footnote: KBR once was run by Vice President Cheney in his civilian life. Cheney in and out of government was one of the fiercest conservative critics of waste, fraud and abuse in government spending.

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