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Fill it to the brim… Posted by Hello

Dick Cheney uses American soldiers to pave the road and Haliburton drives right behind scooping up the cash with shovels and dump trucks:

Pentagon auditors have challenged nearly $1.5 billion worth of Halliburton Co.’s bills to the U.S. military, Democratic lawmakers say.

Placing the military’s largest private contractor operating in Iraq under the microscope once again, House and Senate Democrats on Monday pointed to Pentagon audits criticizing Halliburton for inflating costs, billing for unnecessary equipment and submitting millions of dollars in duplicate costs on two contracts valued at more than $11 billion.

Halliburton has been able to run up excessive charges largely because of “deficient Defense Department oversight and an unquestioning reliance on Halliburton’s assurances,” Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., and Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., said in a report released Monday at an ad hoc hearing attended only by Democrats.

Officials at the Defense Contract Audit Agency identified more than $1 billion in “questioned” costs and another $442 million in “unsupported” billings connected with contracts to support U.S. troops and rebuild Iraq’s devastated oil infrastructure.

Questioned costs are billings auditors have deemed unacceptable because they are unreasonably high, illegal or not permitted under the contract. Unsupported costs lack the necessary documentation.

Here comes the Halliburton response:

Halliburton spokeswoman Cathy Gist-Mann noted that many of the auditors’ questions have already been resolved.

The figure represented in Monday’s hearing “stems from an aggregation of many reviews over a three-year period,” Gist-Mann said. “The amount is a gross mischaracterization of the true facts.”

Many of the auditors’ questions centered around the “quality of supporting documentation,” Gist-Mann said. “It is completely wrong to say or to imply that any of these costs … are now ‘overcharges.’ “

So if you amortize the fraud over three years, well, it’s not so bad. Is it?

Under the company’s largest contract — valued, as of last September (the most recent figures available) at $8.6 billion — Halliburton subsidiary KBR builds bases, serves meals, washes clothes and provides a myriad of other support services.

At the start of the war, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had also awarded Halliburton a no-bid contract to restore Iraq’s oil infrastructure. Under that contract, Halliburton was ordered to truck much-needed fuel into Iraq, and the assignment mushroomed to a total cost of $2.5 billion.

Under that contract, Waxman said, Halliburton was charging about $1.30 a gallon to truck in fuel from Kuwait. Executives from Lloyd-Owen International, which has been trucking in fuel for the last year, said they have been charging about 18 cents a gallon.

While Pentagon officials are supposed to be supervising the company’s work in Iraq, the military often fails to challenge Halliburton’s cost estimates, even when those numbers are dramatically higher than the government’s own projections, the lawmakers said.

Halliburton, for example, provided operations and maintenance support at Baghdad International Airport. The government expected the cost of that assignment to be about $1.9 million. Halliburton’s estimate was $12.8 million.

The U.S. Army Audit Agency complained that the military supervisors “were willing to rely on the contractor’s cost estimates with little or no question.”

Halliburton also came under fire Monday from Rory Mayberry, a former food production manager for the company at Camp Anaconda in Iraq.

Mayberry accused Halliburton of serving U.S. troops food that had passed its expiration date or even had been damaged in an insurgent attack.

“We were told to go into the trucks and remove the food items and use them after removing the bullets and any shrapnel from the bad food,” Mayberry, who is now working in Iraq for another contractor, told the lawmakers in a videotape.

Halliburton’s Gist-Mann said the company’s dining facilities are “thoroughly inspected every month by the Army’s Preventive Medicine Services division, and one of the main things they check is the expiration dates on various food products.”

Mayberry also accused Halliburton of shipping workers who dared speak to military auditors off to more dangerous locations.

If I had to guess, I’d be willing to say that Halliburton’s Cathy Gist-Mann goes home each and every night and drinks herself unconscious to escape the psychic pain and the bad karma that is eventually going to snap her in two like a twig in a hurricane.

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