Iraq Contractors' Testimony Debated
Waxman and Davis Spar Over Allegations of Mismanagement by Halliburton
By Robert O'Harrow Jr.
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, June 15, 2004; Page A04
Mike West arrived in Iraq last September as a labor supervisor, one of legions of workers hired by oil services giant Halliburton Co. to help rebuild the battered country. And at his boss's direction, West filled out timecards saying that he worked 12-hour days, seven days a week, in camps with evocative names such as Anaconda and Al Asad.
But over the next two months, West said yesterday, he probably put in no more than a week's worth of labor. The rest of the time, West and others hired by the company loafed, read books and grew frustrated about the lack of work, he said.
When he complained about the apparent waste, West said, he was told not to worry about costs: Halliburton would make a profit no matter what happened. "I really saw no purpose for us being there," West said. "I don't know why Halliburton was hiring all these people."
West is among six contract workers who recently told members of the House Committee on Government Reform they witnessed examples of misspending and mismanagement by Halliburton subsidiary KBR while serving overseas. They described how $85,000 trucks had been abandoned on roadsides in Iraq for minor problems, such as flat tires, or driven into the ground because of a lack of basic maintenance. A woman hired to oversee Halliburton subcontracts said the company paid almost $1 million against the Army's wishes to house 100 employees at a hotel in Kuwait over a three-month period, a cost that was passed on to the government.
Details about the workers' claims came to light yesterday in a letter from Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.), the committee's senior Democrat, to Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (R-Va.), the chairman, objecting to Davis's decision not to include the workers' testimony in a hearing today about contracting in Iraq. "These individuals have firsthand knowledge of egregious examples of waste, fraud, and abuse involving Halliburton's Iraq contracts," wrote Waxman, one of Halliburton's harshest critics in Congress.
A spokesman for the committee, David Marin, acknowledged the workers had provided some compelling details, but he said staff members were still checking their credibility. Marin described Waxman's letter as an example of political maneuvering during a campaign season. "We're disappointed," Marin said, noting the committee may still have a hearing that includes the workers. "What we said is, 'Not yet.' "
Halliburton spokeswoman Wendy Hall said in an e-mail: "We take any charges of improper conduct seriously. . . . We will look into these assertions. If issues arise, we are committed to addressing them forthrightly and openly."
The workers Waxman cited were hired by Halliburton through the logistical support contract known as LOGCAP. Awarded on a sole-source basis before the war, the contract reimburses KBR's costs and pays a fee. Under the contract, the company has been awarded $4.5 billion so far to provide supplies, such as fuel, and services, such as meals, the Waxman letter noted. Halliburton, which also has a contract to restore Iraq's oil fields, has been granted a total of $8.2 billion in business so far, the letter said.
Separately, a GAO report released yesterday raised questions about some of the work Halliburton did to prepare for the war, but said the contract for restoring the country's oil infrastructure "generally complied with applicable legal standards."
© 2004 The Washington Post Company