Army Fired Official for Questioning $1 billion in Dodgy KBR Contracts
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An Army official was fired in 2004 for questioning $1 billion in dubious charges from politically-connected mega-contractor KBR. To add insult to injury, the army replaced the fired official with a private contractor:
WASHINGTON â€” The Army official who managed the Pentagonâ€™s largest contract in Iraq says he was ousted from his job when he refused to approve paying more than $1 billion in questionable charges to KBR, the Houston-based company that has provided food, housing and other services to American troops.
The official, Charles M. Smith, was the senior civilian overseeing the multibillion-dollar contract with KBR during the first two years of the war. Speaking out for the first time, Mr. Smith said that he was forced from his job in 2004 after informing KBR officials that the Army would impose escalating financial penalties if they failed to improve their chaotic Iraqi operations.
Army auditors had determined that KBR lacked credible data or records for more than $1 billion in spending, so Mr. Smith refused to sign off on the payments to the company. â€œThey had a gigantic amount of costs they couldnâ€™t justify,â€ he said in an interview. â€œUltimately, the money that was going to KBR was money being taken away from the troops, and I wasnâ€™t going to do that.â€
But he was suddenly replaced, he said, and his successors â€” after taking the unusual step of hiring an outside contractor to consider KBRâ€™s claims â€” approved most of the payments he had tried to block. [NYT]
As you may recall, KBR is an offshoot of Dick Cheney's former employer, Halliburton. KBR is one of the largest contractors operating in Iraq today, and one of the largest single recipients of U.S. federal contracting dollars for the entire government. In 2004, KBR did over $8 billion dollars worth of business with the federal government. The name KBR has become virtually synonymous with waste, fraud, and abuse.