The government’s Afghanistan watchdog is taking a closer look at the Pentagon’s decision to let one of its biggest contractors off the hook for a botched construction job.
In October, POGO blogged about a report issued by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) that detailed major problems on an Afghan Army garrison construction project. SIGAR’s inspection found serious structural problems at the garrison, such as the cracked latrine pictured above. Equally troubling was the finding that, despite the unsatisfactory performance of prime contractor DynCorp International, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) reached a settlement with DynCorp that allowed the company to walk off the job, for which it had been paid nearly $71 million, without fixing any of the structural defects. The settlement, according to the SIGAR report, “appears to be on unfavorable terms to the U.S. government” from which “USACE appears to have received little or nothing in return.”
Last week, Special Inspector General John F. Sopko sent a letter to USACE announcing that SIGAR has opened an investigation into the DynCorp settlement.
The investigation was prompted in part by USACE’s response to the SIGAR report, which requested a written explanation from USACE supporting its determination that the settlement was fair and reasonable. More than a month later, USACE informed SIGAR that it “does not have sufficient information” to support its determination.
“The review experienced certain challenges because of the time that has elapsed since the contract actions occurred and because a number of key personnel who participated in those actions are not immediately available or are no longer working for USACE,” USACE explained in a December 4 memorandum attached to and referenced in Sopko’s letter. “As a result, our findings to date are incomplete.”
USACE agreed, however, that “the nature of the settlement raises a number of concerns” and that a more thorough investigation is warranted.
Apart from USACE’s incomplete response, SIGAR’s investigation also seems to have been prompted by what Sopko refers to as “questionable actions on the part of personnel involved in the DynCorp settlement negotiations.” As a result, Sopko asked USACE to preserve all records relating to the settlement, including “the personnel files and travel records of all personnel connected with the DynCorp settlement negotiations.”
What Sopko is referring to is anyone’s guess. However, it could have something to do with one of the “7 Absurd Ways the Military Wastes Taxpayer Dollars.” Number 7 on that list is the government-to-industry revolving door. Salon.com examined the problem as it pertains to high-ranking military officers, but the big-money potential of the revolving door can entice civilian and military Pentagon employees at all levels, even USACE contracting officials, to provide favorable treatment to a contractor. As we noted in October, several Pentagon notables in recent years have left the government to work for DynCorp.
Image from Kunduz ANA Garrison: Army Corps of Engineers Released DynCorp of all Contractual Obligations Despite Poor Performance and Structural Failures, SIGAR Inspection – 13-1, October 2012.