Monday, April 28, 2008

Waste, Fraud & Abuse

When I saw this video of Senator Dorgan (D-North Dakota) talking about waste, fraud & abuse with regards to contracts in Iraq, the hair went up on the back of my neck.

Having worked as a Purchasing Agent for a defense contractor years back, "waste, fraud & abuse" are fighting words. Those 3 words were held over our heads like a guillotine waiting for us to trip up on some unknown or obscure sub paragraph in the procurement policy or contract. I'm pretty sure it was one of the worst offenses we could execute on the job. They held it up to us as it could relate to time cards, expense reports and especially in the area of the procurement of goods and services. To this day, I remember a phrase that was frequently noted on our purchase orders. It is the opinion of this buyer that this purchase order is fair and reasonable and is in the best interest of our company and the United States Government. I guess the current contractors never got that message.

Go get yourself a cup of your favorite beverage and take 10 minutes to watch this video from March 2008. A little research reveals that the good Senator from North Dakota has been presenting evidence of waste fraud & abuse to the Senate, requesting the implementation of a type of Truman Commission from World War II. (Then Senator Harry Truman as a member of the Senate Special Committee, the Truman Committee for short, wanted to look at wartime waste, fraud, and abuse so that the American government could get a proper handle on the federal spending that was going into mobilization and the projects that were being put on the line. The process saved American taxpayers $15 billion (in 1940 dollars).)

Others in Congress have tried to push the concept of oversight into war profiteering, but this administration is having nothing to do with that, not on their watch. Dina Roser from Huffington Post wrote that earlier this year, in January 2008,

Bush signed the 2008 Defense authorization bill into law. In it he singled out four of 2,887 sections for his now notorious signing statement. He said that these four provisions "purport to impose requirements that could inhibit the president's ability to carry out his constitutional obligations to take care that the laws be faithfully executed, to protect national security, to supervise the executive branch, and to execute his authority as commander in chief. The executive branch shall construe such provisions in a manner consistent with the constitutional authority of the president."

What were these egregious provisions that could tie the commander-in-chief's hands and threaten our national security? They all had to do with oversight.

According to the Congressional Quarterly: One such provision sets up a commission to probe contracting fraud in Iraq and Afghanistan. Another expands protections for whistleblowers who work for government contractors. A third requires that U.S. intelligence agencies promptly respond to congressional requests for documents. And a fourth bars funding for permanent bases in Iraq and for any action that exercises U.S. control over Iraq's oil money.

If there is any good news in all of this it's the persistence of the legislators who have the courage to stand up to this administration and actually do their job on behalf of the US taxpayers and the troops. In addition to Byron Dorgan, of note are Jim Webb (D-VA) and Claire McKaskill (D-MO) who sponsored the Wartime Contracting Commission, patterned after the old Truman Committee.

I received a notice from the Senate Democratic Policy Committee that they are holding a hearing on corruption in Iraq reconstruction on Monday, April 28 at 2:00 p.m. Three whistleblowers who have never-before appeared before Congress will be giving eye-witness accounts of corruption by private contractors in Iraq including: the use of government equipment to transport prostitutes from to Kuwait to Baghdad in a contractor-run prostitution scheme, still-useable government equipment worth millions thrown into "burn pits" and KBR employees selling items they looted from Iraqi government buildings on eBay. We'll be live streaming this hearing on our website at

This is not the first hearings into waste, fraud & abuse by government contractors, not by a long shot, and hopefully, it won't be the last. We taxpayers should stand in support. We owe these hearings to the troops continue to receive short shrift with regards to the occupation.

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