Congressional hearing raises concerns regarding contractors’ accountability
WASHINGTON — Former KBR contractor Linda Warren said during her year in Iraq that she saw co-workers stealing from military supply rooms, abusing Iraqi workers, and falsifying paperwork so the company could collect more government payouts.
“Many times I was ashamed to call myself an American working for Halliburton in Iraq,” she told a congressional committee on Monday. “Our sons and daughters fighting over there deserve better than this.”
The hearing was the 13th before the Senate Democratic Policy Committee in the last four years, featuring dozens of whistle-blowers claiming rampant fraud and abuse among contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Committee chairman Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., said he already has scheduled more hearings in coming weeks to continue to highlight the billions in misspent and wasted government money overseas.
He insists that defense officials have been reluctant to acknowledge the fiscal responsibility and standing Congressional committees have not been able to pursue.
“I think it is clear none of the authorizing committees have the research staff to handle this work,” he said. “So the question is ‘Who’s watching this?’”
Dorgan has pushed for the establishment of a new, bipartisan committee to deal solely with the issue, similar to one established in the 1940s to examine waste and abuse in wartime contracts. Dorgan said he’d prefer a bipartisan panel of questioners and investigators to more closely examine the fraud and waste.
But so far Republican Senators have successfully blocked legislation to stand-up and fund such a committee. Dorgan said he will introduce that legislation again in the next few months, despite the opposition.
In a statement, KBR officials said the issues raised by Warren and other witnesses before the committee have already been addressed by the company and refused further comment, citing ongoing litigation.
But Warren, who worked as a supervisor in laundry services for KBR’s Baghdad operations in 2003 and 2004, said that she believes taxpayer money is still being wasted and stolen by her former employers and other companies, based on stories she has heard from other former contractors.
“When you were over there, if you spoke out … they threatened to put you out on the streets of Baghdad during a riot,” she said. “I think there are still people who won’t speak out because they fear for their lives.”