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IRAQ: Contractor's Work in Iraq Is Under Scrutiny

by Griffe WitteThe Washington Post
September 28th, 2006

The contractor that botched construction of a $75 million police academy in Baghdad so badly that it was deemed a health risk has produced shoddy work on 13 out of 14 projects reviewed by federal auditors, the top official monitoring Iraq's reconstruction told Congress today.

The projects managed by California-based Parsons Corp. are at the heart of the $21 billion U.S.-led Iraq reconstruction program, including fire stations, border forts and health care facilities. The one project for which construction work met standards -- a prison -- was cancelled by the government before it was completed because of escalating costs.

 In a report released today, inspectors revealed that the Baghdad Police College posed a health risk to recruits because feces and urine were leaking through the ceilings of student barracks. The academy was intended as a showcase for U.S. efforts to train Iraqis who eventually are expected to take control of the nation's security from the U.S. military.

Parsons senior vice president Earnest O. Robbins II told a House panel investigating the failures that poor work by Iraqi subcontractors and a deteriorating security situation were to blame. But Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction Stuart W. Bowen Jr. said that it appeared the company had fallen down in its responsibility to manage the work.

"It boils down to a lack of oversight," Bowen said.

The company came under fire from congressmen on both sides of the aisle. "Don't you think that Parsons, given what turned out to be a very shoddy job, should return some of its profits to the taxpayer?" asked Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD).

"No sir, I do not," Robbins replied, explaining that it is up to the Army Corps of Engineers, which managed the contract, to determine how much profit the company makes.

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