Washington, DC—Today, Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-27) voted in favor of an amendment that would create a Select Congressional Committee to investigate possible waste, fraud and abuse in Government contracts in Iraq and in Katrina recovery and reconstruction. The consideration of the amendment failed along party lines during debate on H.R. 4939, War and Hurricane Supplemental Appropriations for FY 2006, which the Congressman voted for and which includes $72 billion for costs relating to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and $19.1 billion for recovery from Katrina and other hurricanes.
The precedent for a select committee to investigate government contracting is the Truman Select Committee, created by Congress in 1941at the urging of then Senator Harry Truman (D-MO), who became aware of widespread stories of contractor mismanagement in military contracts in the buildup to Word War II. It is estimated that the Truman Committee’s numerous recommendations saved the American taxpayer an estimated $15 billion, and likely even saved lives.
“We should not be playing partisan politics over ensuring vigilant oversight of taxpayer dollars,” said Higgins. “The successful Truman Committee was created at a time when Democrats controlled the White House, the House and the Senate. A Democratic Congress demanded careful oversight of a Democratic Administration. Democrats and Republicans should be able to come together to agree on this new, equally as important ‘Truman Committee.’”
Numerous questions have arisen about U.S. government contracting in Iraq, specifically about how contracts have been awarded, the size of those contracts, the quality of the contractor work, and the use of taxpayer dollars. Since early September 2005, similar questions have arisen about U.S. government contracting in Katrina recovery and reconstruction.
Since 2003, there have been many examples of the misuse of American taxpayer dollars in Iraqi contracting. Nearly $9 billion of money spent on Iraqi reconstruction is unaccounted for because of inefficiencies and bad management, according to the Special Inspector General for the Iraqi Reconstruction. In one case, the Inspector General raised the possibility that thousands of “ghost employees” were on an unnamed ministry’s payroll. The Administration is repeating the pattern of no-bid and limited-bid contracts to politically-connected firms that it followed in Iraq with its Katrina contracts. Instead of maximizing competition in Katrina recovery and reconstruction contracts, the Administration has issued several no-bid/limited-bid and “cost-plus” contracts. For example, in September, four contracts for temporary housing – worth $100 million each – were awarded with limited or no competition to the Shaw Group, Bechtel, CH2M Hill and Flour, four politically-connected firms. According to a review by the Associated Press, all ten companies with the ten largest Katrina contracts are located outside the Gulf Coast region, most are politically connected and most got the work after a limited bidding process. This is the exact sort of practice that the Truman Committee ended during World War II.
Higgins continued, “Government sponsored ‘no-bid’ contractors at politically connected firms like Halliburton, are exploiting our nation’s generosity here in America and beyond. In the Gulf Coast region of this nation and in the Middle East region of this world, contractors are pillaging the very people whose economic interest we have been sent to protect. In the midst of war and in the aftermath of natural disaster, hundreds of millions in taxpayer funded relief and recovery are being wasted, squandered and lost forever, at the very moment when they could do the most good.”