Monday, July 28, 2008

Parsons Fails in Iraq, But Keeps Lucrative Government Contracts?

One of the things you can do when a company fails to fulfill their obligations in Iraq--and screws the US taxpayer--is to look at just how many other possible government contracts they still have in other areas. Why should a defense contractor get away with not building a prison in Iraq but still keep contracts to provide workers for the US government in the United States?

I'm sure there are all kinds of high-minded reasons why I'm totally wrong, but here goes: Parsons of California screwed the taxpayers big time in Iraq:
The U.S. government paid a California contractor $142 million to build prisons, fire stations and police facilities in Iraq that it never built or finished, according to audits by a watchdog office.

The Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR) said Parsons of Pasadena, Calif., received the money, part of a total of $333 million but only completed about one-third of the projects, which also included courthouses and border control stations. The inspector general's office is expected to release two detailed audits today, evaluating Parsons's work on the contract, which is worth up to $900 million.

"Far less was accomplished under this contract than originally planned," the inspector general wrote. "Millions of dollars in waste are likely associated with incomplete, terminated and abandoned projects under this contract." Auditors did not give a dollar figure of how much had potentially been wasted, but they said Parsons got about 10 percent -- or $11.3 million -- of the $108 million of award fees it could have received.

Parsons said in a written statement yesterday that it had "some serious reservations about the conclusions" in the audits, saying the company was hindered by the violent and unstable security situation in Iraq. One of Parsons's subcontractors was shot and killed at close range while in his office, the company said.

Therein lies the real problem--Parsons is merely stealing your money because it can. And while it is stealing your money, it's getting an award for doing a great job as it lies about the progress it is making so that it can claim awards it does not deserve.

And while all of that is going on, your government basically takes the coal shovel, and shovels the money at them while no one is watching over the contracts:
The office, which is charged with finding waste, fraud and abuse in U.S. spending, said a contract of Parsons's size should have had 50 to 60 contracting officers and specialists working on it, but it only had 10.

Parsons won its lucrative deal in 2004 to do security and justice work in Iraq, as part of a dozen other big reconstruction deals. Of 53 construction projects in the Parsons contract, only 18 were completed.

Auditors gave Parsons a scathing report on one of its biggest projects -- a multimillion-dollar prison in Diyala that was to house 1,800 inmates and help alleviate overcrowded facilities -- calling it a failure and wasteful. The U.S. government fired Parsons from the prison contract two years ago, saying it was late and over budget. It paid Parsons $31 million, and then paid other contractors $9 million to keep working on the project.

If Parsons was fired from that contract two years ago, take a look at this story from last year--another project to help restore the oil exporting infrastructure in Iraq details how Halliburton and Parsons have failed to meet deadlines:
Heavily armed soldiers spend their days at the oil terminals scanning the horizon looking for suicide bombers and stray fishing dhows (boats). Meanwhile, right under their noses, smugglers are suspected to be diverting an estimated billions of dollars worth of crude onto tankers because the oil metering system that is supposed monitor how much crude flows into and out of ABOT and KAAOT has not worked since the March 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq.

Officials blame the four-year delay in repairing the relatively simple system on "security problems." Others point to the failed efforts of the two U.S. companies hired to repair the southern oil fields, fix the two terminals, and the meters: Halliburton of Houston, Texas, and Parsons of Pasadena, California.

The Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR) is scheduled to publish a report this spring [Spring, 2007] that is expected criticize the companies' failure to complete the work.

You'd think the gravy train was over for Parsons. You'd think they wouldn't have the gall to keep trying to get more government contracts and fill contractor positions at various US government sites. You'd think there would be great concern as to granting Parsons any more work. But, no worries! If you want to work on a government contract for Parsons, there's no shortage of existing government contract work waiting for you. Parsons has scores of current listings, all throughout the continental United States and throughout the world, looking for people to fill positions on key government contracts.

I believe there should be some sort of law or some sort of regulation that ties what a company does in Iraq to what they do in the United States or in other regions. If a company blows it in Iraq and fails to meet its obligations there, then that company should have its other contracting work for the government held, called into question, or audited for similar cost overruns or practices. Some companies may claim that what their international division does is separate from what their domestic division does--I think that's a sham in order to stovepipe things and keep the money flowing to one part of their business while they use another part of their business to rip off the taxpayers.

And, as if this needs to be added, Parsons should not be awarded any more government contracts until it rectifies the problems with the existing or previous contracts.

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