Overseas Civilian Contractors

News and issues relating to Civilian Contractors working Overseas

Landmine deaths triple in Angola

Luanda – AFP- The number of people killed by landmines in Angola in 2010 almost tripled as funding for demining activities plummeted in the world’s third most mined country, the HALO Trust said on Thursday.

“Funding has declined by 50% since 2008. There were 80 victims of mining accidents in 2010, compared to 28 in 2009,” said Jose Pedro Agostinho, assistant director of the British non-profit organisation.

The HALO Trust has been operating in the five worst-mined Angolan provinces since the end of the near three-decade civil war that ended in 2002.

Financial difficulties have resulted in the closure of its operations in the southern district of Benguela, while 667 minefields still need to be swept

Since the end of the war, the oil-rich country has embarked on a process of rebuilding infrastructure, and entrenching its position as Africa’s top oil producer.

“The more they reopen the roads, the more people have access to remote areas,” said Agostinho, suggesting the public was more likely to end up in mined locations.

“And then there are the refugees who come back from neighbouring countries and they are not aware of the danger zones,” he added.

Please see the original here

The exact number of landmines laid during the war is not known, in a country that is the most mined in the world after Afghanistan and Cambodia.

December 9, 2010 Posted by | Africa, Demining | , , | Leave a comment

U.S. touts success at Iraq demining

WASHINGTON, Dec. 9 (UPI) — U.S.-led efforts in Iraq have cleared more than 190 million square feet of land from unexploded ordnance, the U.S. State Department said.

The State Department said Iraq is near the top when it comes to nations plagued with land mines and unexploded ordnance. Most of those, the department said, are the consequence of more than 30 years of conflict and the 1980s war between Iran and Iraq.

In 2010, the U.S. government spent nearly $25 million to destroy conventional weapons scattered across the country.

The United Nations, however, estimates that there are 20 million land mines scattered across Iraq, with many of those contaminating agricultural land.

The State Department said it cleared more than 190 million square feet of land from land mines and unexploded ordnance, though parts of the country are still riddled with the weapons.

There are nearly a dozen national and international agencies, including the U.S. government, working to get rid of conventional munitions in Iraq.

“Despite progress, much work remains ahead,” the State Department said.  Please see the original here

December 9, 2010 Posted by | Civilian Contractors, Demining, ERW, Iraq, State Department | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Former Afghanistan Contractor Freeman Gets 41 Months

FBI Press Release

Updates from Bloomberg

Dec. 9 (Bloomberg) — A former KBR Inc. employee in Afghanistan was sentenced to 41 months in prison for accepting bribes for steering work to companies doing business with the U.S. military.

Daniel Freeman of Hempstead, New York, pleaded guilty to taking $200,000 while working in Afghanistan from 2007 to 2009. He also admitted he laundered the money by sending cash back to the U.S. in concealed transactions.

“I just made a horrible decision, your honor,” Freeman told U.S. District Judge Colleen McMahon today in New York.

McMahon rejected pleas from Freeman’s lawyer to impose a sentence of less than the 41 to 51 months called for in nonbinding federal sentencing guidelines.

“It is very necessary to send a message loud and clear that this type of behavior will not be tolerated,” McMahon said.

The judge called Afghanistan a “murky part of the world” where representatives of the U.S. have to operate “completely and totally on the up and up.”

The case is U.S. v. Freeman, 10-cr-00766, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

Dec. 9 (Bloomberg) – A former employee of a U.S. contractor in Afghanistan was sentenced today to 41 months in prison for accepting $200,000 in bribes in return for steering work to companies doing business with the U.S. military.

Daniel Freeman, of Hempstead, New York, told a U.S. magistrate judge in Manhattan that from 2007 to 2009, he accepted the gratuities while working in Afghanistan for a U.S. military contractor later identified as KBR Inc. He also said he laundered the money he received by sending the cash back to the U.S. in concealed transactions  Please see the original here

December 9, 2010 Posted by | Afghanistan, Civilian Contractors, Contractor Corruption, KBR | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Gunmen kidnap 18 Afghan deminers

KHOST (AFP) Eighteen Afghans working for a demining charity were kidnapped at gunpoint by men on motorcycles in eastern Afghanistan near the border with Pakistan on Thursday, officials said.

The incident took place on the edge of Khost, capital of the province of the same name, provincial police chief General Abdul Hakim Eshaqzai told AFP.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the abduction, but criminal groups and insurgents have kidnapped dozens of Afghans and foreigners since the 2001 US-led invasion ousted the Taliban regime in Kabul.

“Armed men riding motorcycles attacked and kidnapped 18 deminers,” the police chief told AFP.

The deminers, who work for Afghanistan-based Mine Detection Center (MDC), were on their way from Musa Khel district to Khost when they were snatched.

Khost government spokesman Mubarez Mohammad Zadran confirmed the kidnapping and said the deminers had travelled without informing Afghan security forces of their itinerary.

In a similar incident on December 1, 16 people working for the Organisation for Mine Clearance and Afghan Rehabilitation were kidnapped in the eastern province of Nangarhar, which also borders Pakistan.

They were released unharmed two days later.

Taliban and other Islamist insurgents fighting against the Western-backed Afghan government since the 2001 US-led invasion have rear bases in Pakistan’s tribal belt on the border with Afghanistan.

US and Afghan officials say the insurgents enjoy at least some measure of protection from Pakistan — although the army flatly denies this.  Please see the original story here

 

December 9, 2010 Posted by | Afghanistan, Demining, Safety and Security Issues | , , , , | Leave a comment

Pentagon Negotiates with Indicted Contractor, Despite Suspension

At The Center for Public Integrity

For the second time this year, the Pentagon is trying to give a no-bid contract extension to a logistics company operating a supply warehouse in Kuwait even though the firm has been barred from federal business following an indictment for billing fraud.

The Defense Logistics Agency’s planned extension to Public Warehousing Co., also known as Agility, provides a poignant reminder that the government’s decision to suspend or debar a contractor for alleged misconduct doesn’t always stop the flow of federal funds to that firm, procurement experts told the Center for Public Integrity.

The contract extension may be legal but it “clearly violates the intent” of the government’s earlier decision to suspend Agility, said Dan Goure, vice president of the Lexington Institute, a national security think tank.

Please read the entire article here

December 9, 2010 Posted by | Civilian Contractors, Contractor Corruption, Contractor Oversight, Iraq, Pentagon | , , , | Leave a comment

ArmorGroup North America, (Wackenhut/G4S) and EODT, the Taliban and US Funds

Senate panel: U.S. money was funneled to Afghan warlords with links to violence

from The Hill   October  7, 2010

The leading Senate panel on military affairs has found that several private security contractors in Afghanistan funneled money from their Pentagon contracts to warlords and strongmen linked to murder, kidnapping and bribery.

The private security contractors at the center of the yearlong Senate Armed Services Committee investigation also used U.S. taxpayers’ money to pay off individuals who supported the Taliban or took action against NATO-coalition forces in Afghanistan, according to Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), the panel’s chairman.

One of the companies investigated, ArmorGroup, a subsidiary of the British company G4S, relied on Afghan warlords — some of whom were Taliban supporters — to provide manpower for the company’s guard force at an Afghan air base, the report said.

During the contract period with the U.S. Air Force, one of the warlords who provided security forces for ArmorGroup killed another warlord in a shootout at a bazaar, according to the report. A third warlord working with ArmorGroup was killed in a U.S.-Afghan military raid on a Taliban meeting at his home.

A second company, EOD Technology (EODT), relied on local powerbrokers to supply personnel for its guard force, including one individual said to have raised money for the Taliban. EODT also hired personnel that had previously been fired by ArmorGroup for passing sensitive information to a Taliban-linked warlord, according to Levin.

EODT is registered as a foreign corporation in Tennessee.

(See EODT’s response here)

The investigation also looked into more than 125 Pentagon security contracts in Afghanistan that were in place from 2007 to 2009. The panel found that contractors did not properly vet their personnel or ensure they received adequate training. The investigation revealed wasted resources and “wide gaps in government” oversight that allowed “dangerous” failures to take place, Levin said.

See the entire report here

December 9, 2010 Posted by | Afghanistan, ArmorGroup, Contractor Oversight, EODT, Private Security Contractor, Safety and Security Issues | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

US blacklists Afghan security firm tied to Karzai

Associated Press

KABUL, Afghanistan – The U.S. military is cutting ties with an Afghan security firm run by relatives of President Hamid Karzai that has been accused of bribing both government officials and Taliban commanders, according to documents obtained Thursday.

The move is part of U.S. efforts to clean up a contracting process in Afghanistan that has been riddled with corruption and allowed U.S. funds to pass to insurgents.

It follows a Congressional report in June that said the Watan Group bribed Afghan officials to get exclusive control over a key NATO supply route in southern Afghanistan and paid Taliban commanders to avoid attacks along the highway.

As of Dec. 6, Watan has been given a “proposed debarment status” — which prevents it from signing new contracts with the U.S. government or renewing existing contracts — according to U.S. military letters sent to the company’s top officers and obtained by The Associated Press. The action was first reported by the Wall Street Journal.

Watan’s subsidiary Watan Risk Management is headed by two of Karzai’s cousins — Ahmed Rateb Popal and Rashid Popal. According to the U.S military letters, the two acknowledged to the bribes in the Congressional report and also told Congressional staffers that company guards regularly use illegal weapons, according to the letters.

A Watan representative confirmed the company received the letters but stressed it had not violated any rules.

“The Watan Group takes the accusations of the army and its actions seriously,” said Simon Hilliard, the managing director. “The Watan Group believes it has been in full compliance and that it can demonstrate this to the Army once it is given its chance.”

Watan has 30 days from the receipt of the letters to submit its argument against the debarment. Hilliard said they planned to reply. If their appeal is rejected, the temporary ban will be extended for up to three years, according to the letters.

If a full ban goes into effect, Watan will be the seventh Afghan company or individual to be blocked from future U.S. contracts this year, according to a senior U.S. military official. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the information was not officially released.

The Congressional report described a man known as Commander Ruhullah — whose Kandahar security company is affiliated with Watan — as a warlord with about 600 men. Ruhullah, known as “the Butcher,” uses his guards to control Highway 1, the main route for transporting supplies between Kabul and Kandahar, the report says.

“He readily admits to bribing governors, police chiefs and army generals,” the report said.

Despite regulations that ban U.S.-hired security companies from using more powerful arms than an AK-47 assault rifle, the reports aid Ruhullah’s guards use heavy machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades and regularly fight with insurgents.

Afghan law bars any security firm from operating if it has direct ties to government officials but many such firms have indirect ties to those in power, as Watan does.

It’s difficult to know how much U.S. money Watan receives because many of its deals are subcontracted and are not thoroughly tracked by the military. Hilliard declined to disclose the value of Watan’s contracts with the U.S. government.

The ban on Watan also applies to its affiliated companies, including firms working in construction, communications, gas and mining.

The measure against Watan comes as Afghanistan is taking steps to disband all private security companies working in the country and replace them with Afghan police officers.

Karzai had originally set a deadline of Dec. 17 for the security firms to shut down but a shortage of qualified police officers has led him to extend the deadline in several cases, saying the shutdown would be gradual.

Seven security firms will continue to work for U.S. military convoys past the deadline until there are enough police to take over the role, according to Gen. Abdul Manan Farahi, who is overseeing the process. He predicted it could take up to six months.

The U.S. has not provided an exact number of how many guards are employed to provide convoy security, but military officials have said the majority of the 26,000 armed guards under U.S. government contracts are involved in convoy security.

Farahi did not name the seven companies that will be allowed to continue convoy security.

Please see the original story here

December 9, 2010 Posted by | Afghanistan, Civilian Contractors, Contractor Oversight, Private Security Contractor, Safety and Security Issues, Taliban | , , , , | Leave a comment

U.S. bans contractor from further aid programs

The U.S. bans an American firm from being awarded new federal contracts due to evidence of ‘serious corporate misconduct’ uncovered in an investigation of its work in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

December 08, 2010|By Ken Dilanian, Los Angeles Times

Reporting from Washington — The U.S. government Wednesday took the unusual step of banning an American firm from being awarded new federal contracts due to evidence of “serious corporate misconduct” uncovered in an investigation of the company’s work on aid programs in Pakistan and Afghanistan. 

The move by the U.S. Agency for International Development, or USAID, to suspend the Academy for Educational Development, or AED, a Washington-based nonprofit corporation that does extensive federal contracting, highlights longstanding concerns about the way the United States delivers foreign aid through a network of American contractors that some critics deride as “Beltway Bandits.”

AED has 65 contracts and grant agreements with USAID worth $640 million, according to agency spokesman Lars Anderson.

The suspension prevents AED from winning new contracts with any federal agency, Anderson said. USAID is now examining whether to seek debarment of the company, a step which would mean the loss of all its federal contracts.

USAID’s inspector general declined to release details of the alleged wrongdoing by AED, citing an ongoing investigation. But in a recently published report to Congress, the office noted that USAID “terminated a 5-year, $150 million cooperative agreement after [investigators] found evidence of fraud” relating to the purchase of household kits obtained by AED in Pakistan’s tribal areas.

The investigation revealed evidence of collusion between vendors and AED, resulting in overpayment for certain goods, the report said. The investigation also discovered that AED had inappropriately hired relatives of a person hired by USAID to oversee the program.

Please read the entire article here

December 9, 2010 Posted by | Civilian Contractors, Contractor Corruption, Contractor Oversight, USAID | , , , , | Leave a comment