WASHINGTON – The largest U.S. contractor in Iraq, Halliburton Co. (search), has passed the $10 billion mark in work orders from the Army for services supporting troops and rebuilding the country's oil industry.
The Army has ordered $8.3 billion worth of work from Halliburton under a contract to support soldiers with meals, housing, laundry and other services. Halliburton got $2.5 billion more in work from the Army Corps of Engineers (search) to put out oil well fires and shore up Iraq's dilapidated oil infrastructure.
Allegations of financial misdeeds, including corruption and overcharging, have led to criminal, congressional and Pentagon investigations of Halliburton's work in Iraq.
Congressional critics say the Bush administration is going easy on the oil services company, which Vice President Dick Cheney (search) ran from 1995 to 2000. Cheney and Halliburton deny any preferential treatment.
Rep. Henry Waxman of California, the top Democrat on the House Government Reform Committee, has been one of the main congressional critics of Halliburton. Waxman issued a statement Thursday criticizing the Army's decision not to withhold partial payments to Halliburton while some accounting issues are straightened out.
"The mounting value of the contracts has been accompanied by a growing list of concerns about Halliburton's performance," the statement said.
Halliburton spokeswoman Wendy Hall said the company has done a good job serving troops and helping to rebuild Iraq.
"This latest statement is simply recycling old, unfounded allegations in an effort to discredit a company that is providing much-needed services in support of our troops on the ground in the Iraq and Kuwait," Hall said.
The investigations of Halliburton's work in Iraq include:
—A criminal investigation into whether kickbacks were involved in Halliburton's use of a Kuwaiti subcontractor to provide gasoline for Iraq's civilian market. Halliburton says it notified federal authorities after an internal probe found two of its former employees may have been involved in corruption worth $6.3 million.
—A review of that fuel contract by the Defense Contract Audit Agency, which concluded Halliburton overcharged the Army by $61 million.
—An investigation by the former Coalition Provisional Authority's internal watchdog which found Halliburton could not account for scores of items in Iraq worth millions of dollars.
—A report by Congress' Government Accountability Office, which found a "pattern of contractor management problems" by the Army on Halliburton's largest Iraq contract. The nonpartisan GAO said the problems including taking more than a year to finalize the documentation on work orders worth billions of dollars.
—A Pentagon audit, which found that Halliburton charged the Army for meals it never served to troops. Halliburton said the problem was caused by the widely fluctuating levels of troops in and around Iraq. Halliburton has repaid $36 million and set aside more than $140 million for a possible settlement as it negotiates with the Army on that issue.
Separately, a federal grand jury in Houston is hearing evidence to decide whether to indict Halliburton or current or former executives for violating the U.S. trade embargo on Iran. Foreign subsidiaries of Halliburton dramatically expanded their trade with Iran while Cheney headed the company. At issue is whether any U.S. citizens were involved in that work, which would violate the Iran embargo.
Halliburton and Cheney have denied any wrongdoing regarding Iran, one of the three countries President Bush termed as part of an "axis of evil" with ties to both terrorists and weapons of mass destruction.