Saturday, May 3, 2008

KBR and A Case of Inadequate Oversight

One more reason to convene a Truman Commission:

A House committee is investigating accidental electrocutions of U.S. troops in Iraq to determine if inadequate oversight of government contracts played a role in the deaths.

Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, asked the Pentagon on Wednesday to provide details on 12 deaths in Iraq since 2003 that are believed to have been caused by electrocution.

In particular, the committee is interested in maintenance contracts for troops’ living areas to see if contractors have been slow to make repairs when electrical problems have been reported.

Once the information is in hand, the committee will decide how to proceed, aides said. Waxman’s committee does not have direct oversight of the military, but it does have power over federal contracting, and is considering revising some rules after finding a variety of problems with other Iraq-related contracts.

The committee investigation was prompted by the Jan. 2 accidental death of 24-year-old Army Staff Sgt. Ryan Maseth, who suffered cardiac arrest after being electrocuted while taking a shower in Iraq.

Army investigators found that Maseth’s death was the result of improper grounding of electrical wiring to the pump supplying water for living quarters at the Radwaniyah Palace Complex in Baghdad, Waxman said.

“When Staff Sergeant Maseth stepped into the shower and turned on the water, an electrical short in the pump sent an electrical current through the water pipes to the metal shower hose, and then through Staff Sergeant Maseth’s arm to his heart,” Waxman said.

That is just unacceptable. There's a huge difference between a legitimate accident and willful ignorance, incompetence, and misconduct. Failure to properly use ground wires--that most basic of simple, common sense procedures when running electricity into a facility--is what has been cited as a factor in virtually all of the deaths. And never forget that the US Embassy compound was wired up with that same mentality--fuck it, collect the money, and run. The next time Secretary Rice denigrates someone for saying Iraq is a potential "death sentence" all you have to do is cite just how poorly contractors have done their job.

If they don't kill you in the shower, they'll just kill you with contaminated water:

Halliburton Co. [which owns KBR] failed to protect the water supply it is paid to purify for U.S. soldiers throughout Iraq, in one instance missing contamination that could have caused “mass sickness or death,” an internal company report concluded.

The report, obtained by The Associated Press, said the company failed to assemble and use its own water purification equipment, allowing contaminated water directly from the Euphrates River to be used for washing and laundry at Camp Ar Ramadi in Ramadi, Iraq.

The problems discovered last year at that site — poor training, miscommunication and lax record keeping — occurred at Halliburton’s other operations throughout Iraq, the report said.

Bunnatine Greenhouse was demoted for simply saying it out loud--these people didn't know what they were doing and they were awarded their contracts with little or not oversight or review. Just another shameful episode that this Congress is trying to get a hold of, but is being lied to and stonewalled at every turn. It's called "oversight and compliance" and it's back in vogue, whether anyone likes it or not.

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