Panel to Hear of Halliburton Waste
By Robert O'Harrow Jr.
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, July 22, 2004; Page E01
In the spring of 2003, not long after John Mancini arrived in Kuwait City as procurement employee for Halliburton Co., he came to an unsettling conclusion: No one cared about his skill at buying goods and making sure government money was wisely spent.
Over the next three months, Mancini said in a recent interview, he watched as colleagues at Halliburton subsidiary KBR paid inflated fees for cell phone services, bought hundreds of rolls of duct tape for $60 each and obscured the waste by failing to file paperwork properly. In one case, he said, a fellow procurement employee recorded a multimillion-dollar purchase as a $200 order, then dismissed it as a mistake.
After he and others raised questions, Mancini said, the company sent in a team to prepare for government audits. "The waste was unbelievable," said Mancini, who left KBR after three months. "This was pure negligence."
Stories like Mancini's will be the focus of a hearing today by the House Committee on Government Reform, as it examines allegations of waste, abuse and profiteering related to the Army's contracts in Iraq with Halliburton, the oil services company that Dick Cheney ran from 1995 to 2000.
Halliburton spokeswoman Wendy Hall said she did not know the particulars of Mancini's allegations, but that the company would look into them.
Mancini isn't scheduled to testify, but the committee will hear from several KBR executives. Halliburton officials have acknowledged some misspending in Iraq -- including $6 million in overcharges that the company repaid -- but have said repeatedly that the company is doing a good job overall.
"KBR is pleased to have the opportunity to appear before the Committee . . . so we may describe our efforts in Iraq to support our troops in a very difficult, demanding and dangerous mission," Hall wrote in an e-mail. "We recognize that any effort like this demands oversight.''
The hearing is shaping up as a political sparring match over Halliburton because of the Cheney connection. The minority Democrats, led by Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.), pressured Republican leaders to allow whistle-blowers to testify, in part to promote the company as an election year issue.
Committee Chairman Thomas M. Davis III (R-Va.) said "the so-called whistle-blowers" simply misunderstood the logistical reality of life during wartime. He said he was giving the Democrats a chance "to put up or shut up" on an issue that won't go away.
"They're taking a series of anecdotes and trying to turn them into some kind of scandal," Davis said in an interview yesterday.
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