Thursday, July 14, 2005

Democrats seek inquiry on expired food in Iraq

Copyright 2005 Houston Chronicle Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON - Senate Democrats on Wednesday called for an investigation into allegations that Halliburton Co. served food that had passed its expiration date by as much as a year to U.S. troops in Iraq.

Rory Mayberry, a former food production manager for Halliburton subsidiary KBR, told lawmakers last month that when outdated food arrived, "we were told by KBR food service mangers to use these items anyway."

He also said food packages damaged in insurgent attacks were still used "after removing the bullets and any shrapnel from the bad food that was hit."

In a letter to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, 28 Democrats called for a formal probe, noting: "We trust you will find this testimony as alarming as we do."

Halliburton spokeswoman Cathy Mann noted that the Army's Preventive Maintenance Division inspects KBR's dining halls monthly, checking on expiration

"If at any point food is deemed unfit to serve, KBR follows the government-approved ... procedures to destroy it," Mann said.

Mann said KBR officials routinely receive positive comments throughout Iraq
on the quality of the food served.

28 senators call for formal Halliburton inquiry

Twenty eight Democratic U.S. Senators, led by U.S. Senator Byron Dorgan (D-ND), are calling for a formal Department of Defense investigation into what they described as “alarming” reports of fraudulent, wasteful and abusive practices by Halliburton in providing food to U.S. troops in Iraq, RAW STORY has learned.

In May, despite concerns by the Army's own auditors about billing practices, the firm received a $72.2 million performance bonuses for its work in Iraq. The bonus was the largest ever received by the firm.

Halliburton has billed the government more than $10.5 billion to date under a contract to provide aid for the military in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.

The Democrats' release, issued by Sen. Dorgan, follows.

In a letter to Rumsfeld released Wednesday, the Senators cited testimony received at a Democratic Policy Committee (DPC) hearing Dorgan chaired June 27, at which a range of abuses by Halliburton were cited, including:

• Serving food to American troops that was outdated by as much as a year or contaminated by bullets and shrapnel. When the food’s condition was called to the attention of Halliburton supervisors, witnesses said, workers were instructed to use it anyway.

• Serving 10,000 meals but deliberately billing the government for at least 20,000 meals, every day at one dining hall, at one base.

• Instructions from Halliburton managers that workers were not to speak to government auditors

“We trust you will find this testimony as alarming as we do,” the Senators wrote. “The testimony demands an immediate and full investigation.”

Witness Rory Mayberry, a former food production manager at Halliburton subsidiary KBR, testified that troops were given food that had expired as much as a year earlier. He described a scene in which, after a convoy was ambushed, he and other employees were instructed to remove the bullets and shrapnel from the food supplies and serve them to U.S. soldiers.

Halliburton also charged the U.S. government for tens of thousands of meals that were never served. Mayberry testified that Halliburton managers instructed employees not to speak to government auditors, and punished those who did by sending them to more dangerous camps.

“Our troops deserve to eat their dinner without worrying it is spoiled or contaminated with bits of shrapnel,” Dorgan said. “Halliburton was given a sweetheart deal here, and they’ve done nothing but take advantage of it. I implore Mr. Rumsfeld to look into this matter immediately.”

Senators signing the letter, in addition to Dorgan included: Carl Levin (D-MI), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), Daniel Akaka (D-HI), Max Baucus (D-MT), Herb Kohl (D-WI), Ted Kennedy (D-MA), Patty Murray (D-WA), Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), Blanche Lincoln (D-AR), Jim Jeffords (I-VT), John Corzine (D-NJ), Tim Johnson (D-SD), Jack Reed (D-RI), Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Paul Sarbanes (D-MD), Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY), Mark Dayton (D-MN), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Ken Salazar (D-CO), Kent Conrad (D-ND), Joseph Lieberman (D-CT), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), and Charles Schumer (D-NY).