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Heralded Iraq Police Academy a 'Disaster'

The Baghdad Police College was built so poorly that feces and urine trickle from the ceilings, and floors rise inches off the ground and crack apart.
The Baghdad Police College was built so poorly that feces and urine trickle from the ceilings, and floors rise inches off the ground and crack apart. (Photos By The Office Of The Special Inspector General For Iraq Reconstruction)

Complaints about the new facilities, however, began pouring in two weeks after the recruits arrived at the end of May, a Corps of Engineers official said.

The most serious problem was substandard plumbing that caused waste from toilets on the second and third floors to cascade throughout the building. A light fixture in one room stopped working because it was filled with urine and fecal matter. The waste threatened the integrity of load-bearing slabs, federal investigators concluded.

"When we walked down the halls, the Iraqis came running up and said, 'Please help us. Please do something about this,' " Bowen recalled.

Phillip A. Galeoto, director of the Baghdad Police College, wrote an Aug. 16 memo that catalogued at least 20 problems: shower and bathroom fixtures that leaked from the first day of occupancy, concrete and tile floors that heaved more than two inches off the ground, water rushing down hallways and stairwells because of improper slopes or drains in bathrooms, classroom buildings with foundation problems that caused structures to sink.

Galeoto noted that one entire building and five floors in others had to be shuttered for repairs, limiting the capacity of the college by up to 800 recruits. His memo, too, pointed out that the urine and feces flowed throughout the building and, sometimes, onto occupants of the barracks.

"This is not a complete list," he wrote, but rather a snapshot of "issues we are confronted with on a daily basis (as recent as the last hour) by the incomplete and/or poor work left behind by these builders."

The Parsons contract, which eventually totaled at least $75 million, was terminated May 31 "due to cost overruns, schedule slippage, and sub-standard quality," according to a Sept. 4 internal military memo. But rather than fire the Pasadena, Calif.-based company for cause, the contract was halted for "the government's convenience."

Col. Michael Herman -- deputy commander of the Gulf Region Division of the Corps of Engineers, which was supposed to oversee the project -- said the Iraqi subcontractors hired by Parsons were being forced to fix the building problems as part of their warranty work, at no cost to taxpayers. He said four of the eight barracks have been repaired.

The U.S. military initially agreed to take a Washington Post reporter on a tour of the facility Wednesday to examine the construction issues, but the trip was postponed Tuesday night. Federal investigators who visited the academy last week, though, expressed concerns about the structural integrity of the buildings and worries that fecal residue could cause a typhoid outbreak or other health crisis.

"They may have to demolish everything they built," said Robert DeShurley, a senior engineer with the inspector general's office. "The buildings are falling down as they sit."

Herman said that he doubted that was the case but that he plans to hire an architecture and engineering firm to examine the facility. He also plans to investigate concerns raised by the inspector general's office that the Army Corps of Engineers did not properly respond to construction problems highlighted in quality-control reports.

Inside the inspector general's office in Baghdad on a recent blistering afternoon, several federal investigators expressed amazement that such construction blunders could be concentrated in one project. Even in Iraq, they said, failure on this magnitude is unusual. When asked how the problems at the police college compared with other projects they had inspected, the answers came swiftly.

"This is significant," said Jon E. Novak, a senior adviser in the office.

"It's catastrophic," DeShurley added.

Bowen said: "It's the worst."


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