WASHINGTON - U.S. investigators have criticized Aegis Defence Services Ltd. for its work providing security in Iraq for contractors and U.S. government staff, saying the British firm had failed to verify that employees were properly qualified for the job.
The Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction said Aegis had not complied with several areas of its $293 million contract, according to an audit report made available Friday to Reuters.
Among problems cited in the audit were that Aegis could not provide the correct documents to show its employees were qualified to use weapons and many Iraqi employees were not properly vetted to ensure they were not a security threat.
"As a result there is no assurance that Aegis is providing the best possible safety and security for government and reconstruction contractor personnel and facilities," said the audit.
The auditors recommended that the U.S. Project and Contracting Office (PCO) in Iraq, which oversees billions of dollars in U.S.-funded rebuilding work, ensure Aegis comply with the terms of its contract.
A representative of Aegis had no immediate comment on the audit.
Aegis won a U.S. contract last May to help coordinate security for contractors in Iraq and provide, among other tasks, anti-terrorism support, escort security and close personal protection.
The award came as a surprise to some, partly because Aegis had little prior experience in the Middle East and because its main shareholder, former British army officer Tim Spicer, was at the center of several controversies, including an arms deal to Sierra Leone that broke a U.N. embargo in 1998 and questions raised by Irish Americans over his military record in Northern Ireland.
Spicer was also involved in a coup attempt in Papua New Guinea in 1997.
American security services firm DynCorp International LLC unsuccessfully protested the award of the Iraq contract last year.
More than 270 contractors have been killed in Iraq while working on U.S. funded reconstruction work. The U.S. government hoped better coordination would make contractors more secure and enable more reconstruction work to be done.
Auditors sampled records for 20 contractor staff issued 30 weapons. Aegis records did not indicate employees were trained for more than half of these weapons, the audit said.
In a sample of 20 records of 125 Iraqis employed by Aegis, six had not been interviewed, 18 had not had police checks and no records existed at all for two of them.
"According to Aegis managers, police checks are difficult to obtain and largely irrelevant to the vetting process because of the current dysfunctional state of the Iraqi government," the audit said.
In addition, Aegis did not perform responsibilities required by the contract for personal security detail, security escorts and movement control, the audit said. Other problems involved government monitoring of the deal.
Moreover, "personal security detail" teams did not have all the qualifications and experience needed for hostage rescue incidents, a task the company told auditors was beyond the scope of their work.
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