Cheney Firm Overcharged Army by Pounds 39m

Article excerpt

US Vice President Dick Cheney's former company may have overcharged the Army by as much as pounds 39 million for petrol in Iraq, Pentagon auditors have found.

The firm, Halliburton, apparently did not profit from the possible overcharges, officials said. The problem was that Halliburton may have paid a subcontractor too much for the petrol in the first place.

Pentagon officials said the Halliburton subsidiary involved in Iraq reconstruction work, Kellogg, Brown & Root, also submitted a proposal for cafeteria services that was pounds 40 million too high.

The defence officials said they had no reason to believe the problems were anything other than 'stupid mistakes' by Halliburton.

Houston-based Halliburton pledged to cooperate with the inquiry.

'We expect and want continuing reviews and audits that detail our work in Iraq,' Dave Lesar, Halliburton's chairman, president and chief executive officer, said in a statement. 'Any contract that is this large and grows this fast is, of course, going to be subject to question.'

News of the problems came as President George Bush worked to justify his decision to limit Iraq reconstruction contracts to companies from the United States or countries that supported the war.

The move angered governments whose firms were cut out of the bidding process, including France, Germany, Russia and Canada.

Many prominent Democrats also have criticised the Halliburton contracts specifically, suggesting they were a political payoff for a company with strong ties to Mr Bush's Republican party and whose executives gave generously to the Bush campaign.

Democratic Senator Frank Lautenberg called for Senate hearings on the Pentagon's findings.

'I have long been troubled by the continued growth of the Pentagon's no-bid contract with Halliburton, and the delay in the Pentagon's promise to compete this contract competitively,' Mr Lautenberg wrote to Senate Government Affairs Committee. …