Congresswoman Wants Answers On KBR $35 Million Contract
Link to Truthout.org: http://www.truthout.org/041109D
Friday 10 April 2009
by: Kimberly Hefling | The Associated Press
The son of Larrain McGee, Staff Sgt. Christopher Everett, was electrocuted and killed in Iraq in September 2005. Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter (D-New Hampshire), believes that KBR, a government contractor, should be held responsible for his death and other injuries and deaths as the result of shoddy electrical work. (Photo: AP)
Washington – A New Hampshire congresswoman said the Pentagon has failed to justify giving a new, $35 million contract to a company whose electrical work on U.S. facilities in Iraq has been criticized as shoddy and unsafe.
At least three service members were electrocuted while showering at U.S. facilities in Iraq. Others have been injured or killed in electrical incidents.
Houston-based contractor KBR Inc., which maintains nearly all U.S. facilities in Iraq, has said it was not responsible for any of the deaths, and that safety is its top priority.
In a letter sent last month, Army Secretary Pete Geren told Rep. Carol Shea-Porter that KBR got the new contract because the Army Corps of Engineers felt KBR had performed well on other jobs. Geren also said KBR was the only contractor to submit a proposal, and was not on a government list of debarred companies.
“The office that is overseeing this work has the expertise required to monitor both the design and construction aspects of the project,” Geren said in the letter, a copy of which was shared with The Associated Press.
“What do you have to do to get on that list? Why weren’t they suspended?” Shea-Porter, a Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, said in an interview this week. She is seeking more information on the contract decision.
“The issue here is we can’t change what’s happened,” she said, “but we certainly have an obligation to these men and women who have suffered and their families to fix them and to make sure we don’t hand another contract out to anyone or any company who had a hand in this.”
Inspections of some of the thousands of Iraq facilities that KBR maintains have turned up major electrical problems at more than a third of the sites.
The AP reported Feb. 6 that KBR was given an Army Corps of Engineers contract to build a convoy support center in southern Iraq that includes a power plant and electrical distribution center. Shortly before the contract was awarded, a senior Pentagon official had rejected the company’s explanation of electrical mistakes in Iraq and said some defense officials had lost confidence in KBR’s ability to do electrical work.
On Feb. 13, KBR was notified by the military that it had accepted KBR’s plan to fix the electrical problems, according to a copy of the letter obtained by the AP using a Freedom of Information Act request.
The military is in the process of inspecting every facility in Iraq and making repairs to electrical problems.