October 23, 2009 in Nation/World

Baghdad embassy errors, overruns cited

State Department urged to try to recoup $132 million
Glenn Kessler Washington Post
 
File Associated Press photo

A portion of the new U.S. Embassy under construction is seen from across the Tigris River in Baghdad in May 2007.
(Full-size photo)

WASHINGTON – The main builder of the sprawling new U.S. Embassy in Baghdad made so many design and construction errors that the State Department should seek to recover $132 million to make necessary repairs, the department’s inspector general said in a report issued Thursday.

The amount would total more than one-quarter of the value of the contracts – $470 million – awarded to First Kuwaiti General Trading & Contracting, the firm in charge of building the embassy compound. The State Department’s Bureau of Administration, in response to the report, said it would begin proceedings to recover the money but expressed doubt about whether it would be worth the time and effort.

Executives at First Kuwaiti did not respond to a request for comment.

The 21-building compound was originally budgeted to cost about $600 million, but the price tag grew to $736 million partly because of new staffing needs and an embassy reorganization. The IG report said building the facility in a war zone in only 34 months was a “significant accomplishment,” but it confirmed allegations of design deficiencies, shoddy construction and poor planning.

The IG report cited “construction deficiencies, incomplete and undocumented design work (and) additional maintenance charges attributable to inadequate quality control.” The report said that because of the design problems, the State Department cannot be assured that the embassy complies with department requirements or building codes.

The report said fire protection systems were improperly designed and installed, “increasing the risk that (embassy) facilities and personnel would not be adequately protected.” In early 2008, the Washington Post reported on problems with the firefighting systems, but several months later the State Department issued certificates of acceptance and completion, meaning the complex was deemed safe for occupancy.

First Kuwaiti also failed to conduct seismic bracing to protect fire lines in case of an earthquake, did not perform any design calculations to support the construction of water treatment and wastewater treatment plants, and did not properly install many exterior walls and concrete surfaces, the report said.

The company also installed inadequate electrical wiring, control and distribution systems, the report said. Automated systems did not operate key functions and were not properly connected, the report said.


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