Friday :: Mar 21, 2008

Loopholes


by Turkana

According to the Associated Press:

House Democrats demanded documents Thursday about a multibillion-dollar overseas contracting loophole to track down how _ and why _ the Bush administration slipped it into plans to protect taxpayer money.

Leaders of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee gave the administration until April 4 to turn over the documents or, aides have said, face a possible subpoena.

The controversial loophole has irked Democrats and Republicans alike. But it has the support of a trade association that lobbies on behalf of giant global government contractors, including Blackwater USA, KBR Inc., Boeing Co., CACI International Inc. and Lockheed Martin.

And what does the loophole do?

Last May, facing growing cases of fraud and increasing spending overseas, the Justice Department introduced plans to force companies to notify the government about evidence of contract abuse worth $5 million or more. Currently, contractors report evidence of abuse on a voluntary basis, and the number of company-reported fraud cases has declined steadily over the past 15 years.

By November, after it left the Justice Department and was published in the Federal Register, the proposed rule specifically exempted "contracts to be performed outside the United States."

And more to the point:

The House inquiry is looking at whether the exemption was added at the request of private firms, or their lobbyists, to escape having to report abuse in U.S. contracts performed abroad.


Abuse? Like this?

In a hearing today on waste, fraud, and abuse in Iraq, Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-ND) said the defense contractor KBR, formerly of Halliburton, has been stamping its logo on towels given to U.S. troops. Dorgan said a contractor told him that he ordered plain white towels for troops, but the “superviser” said the towels must have the KBR logo on them — despite the cost to taxpayers:
He said the problem is, that will triple or quadruple the price.

Or this?

Kellogg Brown & Root, the nation's top Iraq war contractor and until last year a subsidiary of Halliburton Corp., has avoided paying hundreds of millions of dollars in federal Medicare and Social Security taxes by hiring workers through shell companies based in this tropical tax haven.

More than 21,000 people working for KBR in Iraq - including about 10,500 Americans - are listed as employees of two companies that exist in a computer file on the fourth floor of a building on a palm-studded boulevard here in the Caribbean. Neither company has an office or phone number in the Cayman Islands.

Or this?

Earlier this morning, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) sent Defense Secretary Robert Gates a letter requesting documents about the military’s management of contracts for maintenance of electrical systems in U.S. military facilities in Iraq.

The reason: Because he found out that 12 Army and Marine servicemen have died as a result of electrocution since 2003.

The latest casualty: Staff Sergeant Ryan D. Maseth (pictured), a Special Forces soldier from Pennsylvania, who was electrocuted while taking a shower in his living quarters in Radwaniyeh Palace Complex in Baghdad on January 2.

Or this?

Today, Human Rights First released its report “Private Security Contractors at War: Ending the Culture of Impunity”(4MB PDF), which I helped write and edit. The report’s focus is not on the misdeeds of private military contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan. Rather it focuses on the United States Government, and particularly the Department of Justice. The Bush Administration has crafted a culture of impunity for contractors in Iraq. This can be seen in a number of acts and in a policy of official indifference towards violent crime involving contractors. The victims of this policy are Iraqi civilians, coalition military, and members of the contractor force themselves. As a senior general in Iraq recently told one of my colleagues: “The three biggest threats faced by American soldiers in Iraq are IEDs, al Qaeda fighters, and unaccountable contractors.” Repeated hearings and demands for action from Congress are ignored by the Justice Department.

Or this? Or this? Or this? Or this? Or this? Or this? Or this?

Need I go on?

Turkana :: 1:38 PM :: Comments (0) :: Digg It!