Overseas Civilian Contractors

News and issues relating to Civilian Contractors working Overseas

Doubling direct foreign aid could bite U.S. vendors

Washington Post with Bloomberg  May 21, 2012

American contractors risk losing business under a U.S. plan to double the share of international aid awards given to overseas entrepreneurs and governments.

The U.S. Agency for International Development awarded $2.12 billion, or 15 percent, of its foreign assistance budget to the overseas groups last fiscal year, compared with $1.94 billion, or 12 percent, in fiscal 2010. The agency has set a goal of spending 30 percent of that aid on such entities by 2015.

The shift may reduce awards to U.S.-based contractors, which received 59 percent of USAID’s $14.5 billion in foreign assistance spending in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30. The remaining 26 percent went to other institutions, including universities and vocational schools.

Rajiv Shah, the agency’s administrator, says boosting direct investment in developing countries will save money and strengthen foreign institutions. “We became far too reliant on contractors,’’ he said in a March 7 speech.

The agency wants to work with local entrepreneurs and developing countries’ governments “instead of costlier Western consultants and contractors,’’ Shah said.

Please see the original and read more here

May 21, 2012 Posted by | Civilian Contractors, USAID | , , , , | 1 Comment

U.S. aid agency prepares switch to Afghan security

Reuters US

The main U.S. foreign aid agency is preparing to switch from private security contractors in Afghanistan to Afghan government-provided security this month under a new policy mandated by Afghan President Hamid Karzai, raising concern in Washington that this could put U.S. civilians at greater risk.

U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Rajiv Shah says the agency may be able to negotiate waivers from the policy for some major infrastructure projects so that they could continue to have access to private security.

But U.S. AID officials also said this week that only 25 percent of U.S.-funded development projects in Afghanistan require security guards, suggesting the changeover to Afghan government-provided security this month that Karzai has ordered may not be so dramatic.

“Seventy-five percent of our assistance portfolio does not require private security contractors today. So a lot of our partners, and a lot of the way we are doing business is not affected by this at all,” Alex Thier, Shah’s assistant for Afghanistan and Pakistan programs, said in an interview.

Private security contractors working for foreign companies, who have numbered in the thousands, are no longer allowed on aid and development programs after March 20 under Karzai’s decree. If these programs want armed escorts or guards for their compounds, they are supposed to contract with a branch of the Afghan police, the Afghan Public Protection Force (APPF).

Karzai has long been critical of private contractors and other “parallel institutions” in Afghanistan and wants them under the control of the Afghan government.

Yet it’s far from clear that the Afghan Public Protection force can provide the same level of security.

Please see the original and read more here

March 9, 2012 Posted by | Afghanistan, Civilian Contractors, Legal Jurisdictions, Private Security Contractor, Safety and Security Issues, USAID | , , , , | Leave a comment

PROMISES, PROMISES: US opts for no-bid contract

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. government awarded a no-bid, $266 million contract for a lucrative electricity project in southern Afghanistan despite promising last year to seek competitive bids from other companies, The Associated Press has learned.

The U.S. Agency for International Development quietly made the change despite criticism over how it has managed billions of dollars spent on reconstruction contracts.

In January 2010, USAID said companies would compete for the electricity project, awarded to Black & Veatch Corp. of Overland Park, Kan., a company that the agency earlier had chastised for big cost overruns and busted deadlines on a diesel-fueled power plant in Kabul. But the government let 10 months pass before deciding to award a contract without competitive bids, saying that it couldn’t spend more time seeking offers.

A rival company that was interested in bidding, Symbion Power LLC of Washington, D.C., said USAID broke its promise and spent more than it should to expand electricity into war-ravaged Helmand and Kandahar provinces in southern Afghanistan.

“I was stunned because of the cost of it,” Symbion chief executive Paul Hinks said.

The no-bid contract comes as the independent Commission on Wartime Contracting is examining how wisely billions of U.S. tax dollars are being spent and how well contractors are being supervised in Afghanistan. USAID and Black & Veatch executives are scheduled to testify Monday at a commission hearing.

USAID opted against seeking competitive proposals “to meet the tight timelines required to have an urgent impact,” the agency said in a statement to the AP.

Black & Veatch defended its selection for the work without competition. “The cost of this contract is entirely reasonable” and includes multiple projects in a large area subjected to intense conflict, the company said in a statement.

During the 2008 presidential campaign, Barack Obama criticized the Bush administration for awarding contracts without competition, a practice he said cost U.S. taxpayers billions of dollars each year. But once in office, Obama didn’t prohibit sole-source contracts, saying agencies needed the flexibility to tailor contracts to meet their needs.

Hinks, who has previously fought against Black & Veatch over contract issues on the troubled power plant in Kabul, said his company successfully completed more energy projects for less money at the height of fighting in Iraq. Symbion handled about $250 million in Defense Department projects in that country, including building 11 power substations and nearly 300 miles of transmission lines.

Hinks said USAID could have received a better deal. The agency had to discuss the project for months with Black & Veatch to craft a no-bid agreement and should have sought proposals at that time from other companies working in the region, he said.

Agency officials told Hinks in several e-mails last year that Symbion and other companies would have the chance to bid on the work.

“USAID intends to procure services through a full and open competitive procurement process and Symbion is invited to submit a proposal,” William Frej, then the agency’s Afghanistan director, wrote to Symbion in February 2010. In November, USAID changed course, saying Black & Veatch would receive the no-bid contract because the company already was working on USAID energy projects.

Under the latest contract for work in southern Afghanistan, Black & Veatch will upgrade electrical distribution in Kandahar city, install diesel generators, rebuild power substations and install a third hydro-electric turbine generator to the Kajaki Dam in Helmand province.  Please see the original here

January 22, 2011 Posted by | Afghanistan, Contractor Oversight, Department of Defense, State Department, USAID | , , , , | 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

Contractor Louis Berger settles in Afghan overbilling probe


McClatchy Newspapers at Kansas City com

One of the government’s highest profile American contractors in Afghanistan has agreed to pay tens of millions of dollars to settle allegations that it overbilled the U.S. government.

In return, the Justice Department will end its investigation into allegations that Louis Berger was intentionally overcharging American taxpayers, individuals close to the investigation told McClatchy Newspapers on Thursday. The settlement, which could be as high as $65 million, would include civil and criminal penalties.

Holly Fisher, a company spokeswoman, declined to comment on the settlement. A spokeswoman with the U.S. attorney’s office in New Jersey, which is overseeing the case, also declined to comment.

The settlement is part of a deferred prosecution agreement, which means that the government retains its right to reopen the investigation if the company engages in future wrongdoing.

Louis Berger’s alleged overbilling, a practice that dates to at least the mid-1990s, swelled to tens of millions in lost tax dollars, McClatchy Newspapers first reported earlier this year.

In 2006, a former Louis Berger employee handed the government evidence against the company, two months before the U.S. Agency for International Development tapped Louis Berger to jointly oversee $1.4 billion in reconstruction contracts in Afghanistan.

It’s unclear whether the settlement would impact the company’s current operations in Afghanistan.

U.S. government officials, who asked to remain anonymous because of the sensitivity of the matter, said that the company continues to be the subject of separate ongoing investigations with regard to its work in Afghanistan.

Louis Berger spokeswoman Fisher issued this statement: “The Louis Berger Group/Black & Veatch Joint Venture is not withdrawing from Afghanistan. We are committed to successfully completing our work on behalf of USAID for the Afghan people, while ensuring the safety of all people working on these important projects.”

Court documents, however, revealed that the Justice Department has been negotiating a deal that would “aid in preserving the company’s continuing eligibility to participate” in federal contracting in Afghanistan and elsewhere.

The whistleblower case, known as a qui tam lawsuit, is sealed in federal court because of the ongoing criminal investigation.

McClatchy Newspapers previously was able to piece together more details about the case by reviewing government documents and speaking to officials who insisted on anonymity because the case is under seal.

That review found that Louis Berger is accused of manipulating overhead cost data and overhead rate proposals submitted to the U.S. government and several states including Massachusetts, Nevada and Virginia.

In some instances the company is accused of shifting overhead costs from private clients to federal and state contracts, where they were less likely to be noticed.

In August 2007, federal agents raided Louis Berger’s home office in New Jersey. Two former senior officials were targeted in the investigation.

Founded in 1953, Louis Berger Group does engineering and construction-related work domestically and in about 80 countries worldwide, according to the company’s website. It has more than 5,000 employees and is headquartered in Morristown, N.J. Please see the original story here

November 4, 2010 Posted by | Afghanistan, Civilian Contractors, Contractor Corruption, Contractor Oversight | , , , , | Leave a comment

U.S. ‘expects’ Richardson to seek release of contractor in Cuba

(Source: The Miami Herald)trackingMIAMI _ The U.S. State Department on Monday said it “expects” New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, who is visiting Havana, to urge Cuba to free a U.S. government contractor jailed for the past nine months.

But a senior Obama administration official said that Richardson, who won the release of three Cuban political prisoners in 1996, “is not carrying a message from the administration.”

A statement by Richardson’s office said he would be in Havana from Sunday to Friday “as part of a mission to strengthen potential trade and cultural partnerships between New Mexico and Cuba.”

“During the visit, Gov. Richardson will help market New Mexico commodities and follow up on inroads made on potential trade partnerships during a visit to Cuba last year,” it added.

Richardson, who has met with Fidel Castro, has at times acted as an unofficial middleman between U.S. democratic administrations and hostile foreign governments. He also has won the release of U.S. citizens held in Iraq, Sudan and North Korea.

A State Department spokesman said department officials met with the governor last week and briefed him on the case of Alan P. Gross, a U.S. Agency for International Development subcontractor jailed in Cuba since Dec. 3.

“As we and others have done, we expect Gov. Richardson to urge the Cuban government to immediately release Mr. Gross,” said Charles Luoma-Overstreet, spokesman for Western Hemisphere Affairs.

The senior Obama administration official e-mailed El Nuevo Herald a statement that was similar, but denied that Richardson is acting as a messenger for the administration.

“As we and others have done, we expect Governor Richardson to urge the Cuban government to immediately release Mr. Gross. He is not carrying a message from the administration,” the official wrote.

Several Obama administration officials, including Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, have repeatedly requested that Cuba free Gross, 60, of Potomac, Md.

He was arrested after delivering satellite communications equipment to Cuba’s tiny Jewish community. He has not been officially charged, but Havana officials have alleged that he’s linked to U.S. intelligence activities.

Richardson, who was raised in Mexico and speaks fluent Spanish, has long advocated easing U.S. sanctions on Cuba and last visited Havana in August 2009 on another trade mission.

During that visit, he did not meet with Fidel Castro or his brother and successor, Raul Castro. He met instead with Ricardo Alarcon, the president of Cuba’s parliament and an expert on Cuba-U.S. relations, as well as officials of the foreign and tourism ministries.  Read the entire story here

August 24, 2010 Posted by | Civilian Contractors, USAID | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Prosecutors investigate US contractor handling Afghanistan, Iraq contracts for overcharging


Last update: August 14, 2010 – 12:18 PM

WASHINGTON – Federal prosecutors are investigating whether a U.S. contractor managing more than $1 billion in reconstruction contracts in Afghanistan overcharged the government.

Prosecutors acknowledged in a court filing last week that their criminal and civil investigations focus on allegations that the Louis Berger Group submitted inflated invoices to the U.S. Agency for International Development, which oversees international development projects.

The revelation came in court filings related to a Louis Berger executive’s federal lawsuit attempting to block efforts to keep his stock holdings in escrow while the investigations continue. Louis Berger, based in Morristown, N.J., is a major player in U.S.-funded reconstruction projects in Iraq and Afghanistan.

August 14, 2010 Posted by | Afghanistan, Contractor Corruption, Contractor Oversight, Iraq, State Department, USAID | , , , , | Leave a comment

DAI Afghanistan Terminates Several Afghan Employees for Allegedly Soliciting Kickbacks

Note:  This is just a CYA Press Release from USAID not a statement from DAI, Development Alternatives Inc.

WASHINGTON, June 16 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — This week in Kabul, Development Alternatives, Inc. (DAI) terminated 10 employees including several engineers and other staff members after months of investigation.  DAI Afghanistan is a contractor with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).

USAID Inspector General Donald Gambatesa stated that the investigation involves Afghan staff members who allegedly approached owners of various companies bidding for subcontracts with DAI Afghanistan.  The individuals reportedly offered to help the companies win awards in exchange for a percentage of the total dollar value of the project.

Read the full press release here

June 16, 2010 Posted by | Afghanistan, Civilian Contractors, Contractor Corruption, Contractor Oversight, State Department | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment