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Justice, Defense Agencies Examine Contracting Problems

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 28, 2007 – The Justice Department and defense agencies are examining contracting problems in Southwest Asia in light of improprieties uncovered in internal reviews, a Defense Department spokesman said today.

While not commenting on specific investigations, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said the department is concerned about “ensuring the integrity of our accounting systems, as well as the integrity of our contracting procedures.”

The Army Audit Agency, Army Criminal Investigation Command, Defense Contract Auditing Agency, Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, FBI, Defense Criminal Investigative Service, and Justice Department are cooperating to address problems that have come to light due to internal investigations, Whitman told reporters.

The entities are “looking at aspects of our operations to ensure that people are doing the right thing as they go about their business of contracting for goods and services, accounting for property and things like that,” he said.

Department officials are concerned with the number of contracting improprieties that have been uncovered, Whitman said.

The Army is the lead agency in the fraud investigations. The investigations are into contracts for goods and services issued in Iraq, Kuwait and Afghanistan. As of Aug. 23, 73 criminal investigations relating to contract fraud in the region had been started. A total of 20 civilians and military personnel have been charged, Army spokesman Col. Dan Baggio said. He said these individuals are accused of taking some $15 million in bribes.

A total of $5 billion in contracts are affected by the criminal investigations, he added.

Problems with the contracts run the gamut from bid-rigging, kickbacks, product substitution, and double billing, Baggio said. Those being investigated include government employees, contractors, military personnel and local nationals.

When defense officials identify people who have done things that are inappropriate or criminal, “we prosecute them and hold them accountable,” Whitman said.

Defense Department Inspector General Claude M. Kicklighter is bringing a team to Iraq soon to take a look at overall contracting procedures. “(Inspectors general) have broad charters when they go in,” Whitman said. The team will look across the broad landscape of the department and take what actions are warranted.

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