01/29/04 — Halliburton: Bribes, overcharges and kickbacks in Iraq

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Halliburton: Bribes, overcharges and kickbacks in Iraq

Perhaps it was proper not to deny Halliburton the opportunity to get huge contracts from the government just because Dick Cheney had been its president until just before becoming vice president of the United States in 2000.

But recent developments certainly raise questions about whether that company should continue to have the opportunity to be paid billions of dollars for U.S. government contracts in Iraq.

Last week, Halliburton disclosed that it had fired two of its employees and will repay the government $6.3 million as a result of possible kickbacks involving work in Iraq.

In recent months, the Pentagon has found that a Halliburton subsidiary, KBR, may have overcharged the Department of Defense $61 million for deliveries of gasoline from Kuwait to Iraq during a five-month period.

KBR reportedly was charging the U.S. government twice the rate charged by suppliers in other countries.

Halliburton and the U.S. Corps of Engineers claimed the double rate was fair because of “the danger faced by fuel convoys” delivering the gasoline.

That raises the question of whether the government should be considering paying our U.S. troops double because of the dangers they face serving in Iraq.

Bribery, overcharges and kickbacks well could be a way of life in that part of the world. At least that appears to be the case with Halliburton and some of its subsidiaries. The same KBR involved in the current investigations paid $2 million in bribes last year to a Nigerian official to get favorable tax treatment.

The U.S. government, which gets its money from taxpayers, should not be doing business with crooks — or with mega-corporations that do business with crooks.

Candidates for the Democratic nomination for president have been criticizing the Bush administration for what they call “war profiteering” by corporations with close ties to Washington.

Halliburton has countered that criticism of its work in Iraq is “politically motivated.”

Whether the criticism is “politically” motivated or not, Halliburton’s conduct of business in Iraq raises some legitimate questions.

Published in Editorials on January 29, 2004 11:20 AM