Playing Contractopoly with Halliburton
Last September, Vice President Dick Cheney appeared on national television and denied that he had any advance knowledge of or involvement in lucrative government contracts given to his former employer, Halliburton. Cheney said, "I have absolutely no influence of, involvement of, knowledge of in any way, shape or form of contracts led by the [Army] Corps of Engineers or anybody else in the Federal Government." But Cheney wasn't telling the truth. In a letter to the vice president on Sunday, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) reveals that the vice president's chief of staff, Lewis "Scooter" Libby "was briefed in October 2002 about the proposal to issue the November 11 task order [contract] to Halliburton."
Earlier this month, Time Magazine unearthed an e-mail which indicates that a $7 billion no-bid contract awarded to Halliburton on March 8, 2003 was "coordinated" with Cheney's office. Pentagon officials now acknowledge that Undersecretary of Defense Douglas J. Feith discussed the March 2003 Halliburton contract in advance with Cheney's office. But don't let Dick Cheney have all the fun. Check out Contractopoly -- the new interactive game from American Progress that lets you win billions in sweetheart deals from the Bush administration as you rebuild Iraq.
Feith, a political appointee, was given ultimate responsibility to award the 2002 "task order" contract. Ordinarily, contracting officers, not political appointees, make those decisions "to avoid any appearance of political influence in the outcome." Steven L. Schooner, a government contracting expert at George Washington University Law School, said, "The suggestion that political appointees would be directing that type of investigation does not seem consistent with maintaining the appearance of propriety."
An audit conducted by the Pentagon found "wide-spread deficiencies in the way Halliburton tracks billions of dollars of government contracts in Iraq and Kuwait, leading to 'significant' overcharges." According to the auditors, Halliburton failed "to follow the company's internal procedures or even to determine whether subcontractors had performed work." Earlier audits revealed Halliburton overcharged $27 million for meals and $61 million for gasoline.
Several former Halliburton employees "issued signed statements charging that the company routinely wasted money." According to David Wilson and James Warren, both of whom worked for Halliburton, "brand new $85,000 trucks were abandoned or 'torched' if they got a flat tire or experienced minor mechanical problems." Former Halliburton logistics specialist Marie deYoung has documentation proving "Halliburton paid $45 per case of soda and $100 per 15-pound bag of laundry." According to deYoung, "Halliburton did not comply with the Army's request to move Halliburton employees from a five-star hotel in Kuwait, where it costs taxpayers approximately $10,000 per day to house the employees." Michael West, who worked as a foreman for Halliburton, said "he and other employees spent weeks in Iraq with virtually nothing to do, but were instructed to bill 12-hour days for 7 days a week on their timesheets." Want more? Here's a long look at Halliburton and its numerous transgressions.
Despite the gravity of the allegations by the Halliburton employees, House Government Reform Chairman Tom Davis (R-VA) has refused to allow them to testify under oath during the committee's hearing on government contracting on Tuesday. Davis claims that "the committee staff needs more time to investigate their allegations." But Waxman notes that, in the past, "promises to investigate in the future have served to deflect criticism of the committee's inaction, but the actual investigations have not been pursued as vigorously as the circumstances warrant."