State Department documents released yesterday reveal that the U.S. ambassador to Kuwait used his influence to override a bidding process on a subcontract from Halliburton for delivering fuel to Iraq in order to make certain that a Kuwaiti business would land the job. These documents contradict claims by the Bush administration that “all decisions involving Halliburton’s contracts were handled only by career contracting officers for the government.”
On May 4, 2003, Halliburton asked three Kuwaiti companies to bid. The next day, Halliburton, through its KBR subsidiary, placed its first order with Altanmia.
By that December, an Army Corps of Engineers contracting officer was pushing Halliburton to put the fuel delivery contract out for competitive bids.
That same month, U.S. Ambassador Richard Jones wrote that Halliburton officials had to “get off their butts and conclude deals” that would keep Altanmia as a subcontractor.
“Tell them we want a deal done with Altanmia within 24 hours and don’t take any excuses,” Jones wrote. The documents, turned over to a congressman by the State Department, do not disclose to whom Jones’ message was directed.
Another memo, this one to Jones, said: “As KBR has been told repeatedly, Altanmia is the GOK’s (Government of Kuwait’s) sole source provider. The GOK has established Altanmia as a sop to the USG (United States Government) in order to allow sales from Altanmia to KBR.”
A Halliburton spokeswoman, Wendy Hall, said that KBR “delivered fuel to Iraq at the best value, the best price, and the best terms and in ways completely consistent with government procurement policies. The original mission detailed by the Army Corps of Engineers was to find a fuel source in the region. The first fuel source found was in Kuwait.”
Except that it wasn’t an open bidding process like it was supposed to be and a U.S. Ambassador is using his position inappropriately. Oh, and Halliburton and Altanmia went on to overcharge for their services:
The embassy intervention to retain Altanmia brought a strong protest from the career Army contracting official who was overseeing the work to deliver fuel to Iraq.
“My ethics will not allow me to direct KBR to go sole source to a contractor when I know there are other potential sources that can provide the fuel to the people in Iraq,” Army Corps of Engineers contracting officer Mary Robertson wrote an official of KBR.
Robertson said the lack of competition would result in higher fuel prices being paid by U.S. taxpayers.
Robertson’s Dec. 6, 2003, prediction of higher prices proved to be accurate. Five days later, a draft report by the Pentagon’s audit agency disclosed that Halliburton and the Kuwaiti subcontractor had overcharged taxpayers $61 million for gasoline imports to Iraq in the initial months of the contract.
Boy, it sure is nice to have a President with an administration we can trust not to lie to us or engage in ethically questionable conduct!