War profiteering? Whod'a thunk it?
Houston-based Halliburton Co. may have overbilled taxpayers by as much as $61 million for trucking gasoline into Iraq, Pentagon auditors said Thursday.
The Pentagon's Defense Contract Audit Agency said Halliburton also may have tried to charge the government $67 million more to manage cafeterias for U.S. troops than the company had agreed to pay the subcontractors hired to actually do the work.
In the military's first public criticism of Halliburton subsidiary KBR since the company went to work in Iraq, Pentagon officials said Thursday that they had discovered "serious problems" with the company's costs and demanded a detailed response.
"Right now the burden is on the company to come back and say why this has happened," a senior Pentagon official said.
The $61 million in fuel overcharges, through Sept. 30, were calculated by taking the difference between what Halliburton billed the government for fuel bought in Kuwait and shipped to Iraq and what another contractor paid to provide gasoline to Iraq by importing it through Turkey, an official said.
Halliburton billed $2.27 a gallon for the fuel, which included transportation costs. The unnamed contractor charged $1.18 a gallon, the official said.
Asked if he believed Halliburton was intentionally padding two no-bid contracts that could yield as much as $15.6 billion from work in Iraq, the official said, "I do not think it is a systematic problem with overcharging."
There is no allegation that Halliburton profited by the excess billing. The $2.27 price was charged to Halliburton by the sole Kuwaiti contractor allowed by the government of that country to bid on a Halliburton subcontract.
What the Pentagon does allege is that Halliburton did not do everything required under government contracting rules to find the best possible price for goods procured under a no-bid contract.