Army to examine Iraq war contracts for fraud

WASHINGTON – A team of investigators will hunker down in an Army office north of Detroit on Monday to begin poring over hundreds of Iraq war contracts in search for rigged awards.

This team of 10 auditors, criminal investigators and acquisition experts are starting with a sampling of the roughly 6,000 contracts worth $2.8 billion issued by an Army office in Kuwait that service officials have identified as a hub of corruption.

The office, located at Camp Arifjan, buys gear and supplies to support U.S. troops as they move in and out of Iraq. The pace of that operation has exploded since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003.

Based on what the team finds, the investigation may expand, and the number of Army military and civilian employees accused of accepting bribes and kickbacks could grow, U.S. officials told the Associated Press. Nearly two dozen have been charged so far.

In Warren, Mich., home to a large Army acquisition center, the contracting review team will examine 314 of the Kuwait contracts, each worth more than $25,000 and issued between 2003 and 2006.

In Kuwait, a separate team of 10 at Camp Arifjan is already going through 339 contracts of lesser value and awarded during the same time period, according to Army Materiel Command at Fort Belvoir, Va.

Both reviews are to be finished before the end of the year.

An investigation of 2007 contracts out of Kuwait has been completed; investigators found numerous problems with the office, including inadequate staffing and oversight, high staff turnover, and poor record-keeping.

In the midst of those shortcomings came billions of dollars in war funding, creating an environment ripe for misconduct and malfeasance.

The efforts in Michigan and at Camp Arifjan are parts of a broader inquiry being conducted by the task force, which was formed by Geren following a spike in the number of criminal cases related to the acquisition of gear and supplies for U.S. troops.

Many of the cases stemmed from fraudulent or mismanaged contracts issued by the Kuwait office, prompting Geren to call for a detailed probe of the work done there.

The Army Criminal Investigation Command has 83 ongoing criminal investigations related to contract fraud in Iraq, Kuwait and Afghanistan, according to spokesman Chris Grey. Grey said 23 individuals have been charged with contract fraud and more than $15 million in bribes has changed hands.


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