• Your State Department Spends $704k on Gardening in Belgium

    April 15, 2013 // 32 Comments »

    With the effects of the sequester kicking in and furloughs of Federal workers underway, it appears that Washington is getting ready to cut back on expenses even when it hurts.

    SecState John Kerry warned that “the State Department will have to stop humanitarian aid to millions of people and delay efforts to ramp up diplomatic security abroad after the attack in Benghazi.”

    Kerry also warned that the State Department might not be able to effectively provide emergency services to Americans in trouble abroad, to properly vet visa applications, and or issue passports to Americans in a timely manner. “I hope that Congress can act to avoid these severe, across-the-board cuts to programs that further U.S. national security, advance America’s economic interests, protect Americans at home and abroad, and deliver results for the American people,” Kerry wrote.

    So it is good to see that State is saving its money for the important things, like dropping $704,198.30 on gardening services at the Ambassdor’s mansion at the U.S. Embassy to NATO in Belgium.

    The award provides for grass cutting, edging, trimming, weeding, and other gardening and landscaping services. It will also mandate the planting of 960 violas, tulips, and begonias. The frighteningly-specific contract says that “any pruning of trees exceeding 2.5 m in height is excluded from the contract. The Contractor shall maintain the height of grass between 4 and 6 centimeters.”

    As a matter of simple comparison, the money your State Department spends in one year on gardening for one embassy in Belgium would fund fourteen public school teachers under the Teach for America program.

    Yea Government!!!!!

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    Posted in Embassy/State

    State Dept Inspector Finds $940k in Mismanagement on Afghan Contract

    October 13, 2011 // Comments Off on State Dept Inspector Finds $940k in Mismanagement on Afghan Contract

    The State Department Inspector General released a report last week finding problems on a $12 million contract in Afghanistan.

    The State Department’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) awarded a contract to DynCorp International to provide operations and maintenance support services at Camp Falcon in Kabul, Afghanistan. Under the contract, DynCorp provides almost everything needed to sustain the camp, including food, laundry and medical services, pest control, electric power generation, sewage and sanitation, and security.

    The report found that INL overpaid DynCorp as much as $940,000 for meals. Although DynCorp’s cost proposal to INL established a daily rate per person for meals, the subcontractor charged DynCorp per meal rather than per person. DynCorp, in turn, invoiced INL at the higher per meal rate. The overcharges were caused in part by INL’s two in-country contracting officers, who were “spread too thinly” to be able to adequately review and approve all purchases.

    Second, the report found that DynCorp could not verify that Camp Falcon receives the correct amount of diesel fuel for its electric generators or determine how much fuel is used at the camp. DynCorp does not maintain records for the amount of fuel pumped in and consumed. Not only does this increase the risk to the government of overpayment and waste, not knowing the amount of fuel on hand could put camp operations at risk if generators unexpectedly run out of fuel. The report notes that DynCorp does not plan to change the current fuel delivery process.

    Finally, while DynCorp’s static guard force has been generally effective in ensuring the safety of the camp’s approximately 1,000 residents, the report found that guards did not have the required English language proficiency and worked an excessive number of hours without a break. All of the guards are third-country nationals, yet DynCorp failed to verify their English proficiency. Although guards are supposed to work 6 days per week, the report found guards working 14 days in a row for as many as 24 consecutive pay periods. The report notes that static guard personnel continue to work this grueling schedule.

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    Posted in Embassy/State

    State Department Mismanages Food Contract in Iraq

    August 31, 2011 // 2 Comments »

    Who doesn’t like free food? One of the best things about working at the World’s Largest Embassy in Baghdad © is free food. Peter devotes most of a chapter in his book to food in Iraq, as his cholesterol count after a year there is higher than his pre-sales.

    At the Embassy (World’s Largest ©) you can feed off a buffet miles long, or, if walking or riding the hovercart shuttle to the buffet is inconvenient, sandwiches, Pop Tarts and all sorts of goodies are available at three Grab-‘n-Goes located right inside the office buildings. It’s like taking an all-inclusive cruise, where stewards stuff food into your mouth while you sleep.

    The problem is freedom isn’t free, especially the freedom to pound down six free meals a day whilst conducting diplomacy. The purveyor of said food, mega-contractor KBR, has pocketed some $37 billion dollars of taxpayer money. And guess what—an Office of the Inspector General (OIG) report has found that this figure includes waste and mismanagement on the part of the State Department.

    Happy Meals

    The fun starts in that State’s contract with KBR says that total meals cost per person per day should be $20. This is hilarious. Breakfast at the Embassy offers made-to-order omelets, a waffle station, pancakes, fresh fruit and all sorts of extras. Lunch usually included two hot entrees, a hamburger station, a sandwich bar, salad bar, dessert bar, ice cream and every type of beverage. Dinner also rocked two hot entrees, including lobster and crab legs on Sundays, steak sometimes, the burger bar, an Indian food bar, salad bar, plus the aforementioned desserts and drinks. In between meals snacks were always available. You’d have a hard time doing all that for $20 a day at McDonald’s, never mind in a war zone where everything had to be trucked in from Kuwait.

    But since the contract had to do with the amount of food prepared, not “meals” eaten, State found a nice solution: just have everyone clock in for a “meal” every time they consume anything. Grab a Diet Coke, clock in as if it was your second lunch. There were ads in the Embassy newsletter asking people to do this; the OIG found one guy who clocked in for 25 meals in two days. The net result is that the ratio of “meals” to people changes, and the official cost per meal appears to go down to near $20. It was a lie. The OIG found $970,000 in overages here.

    Feed the World

    The OIG also found that State was lax about just who got to feed from its trough-o’-cornucopia. The contract with KBR provided for most Embassy staff and any uniformed military around to eat free. It turns out that the OIG found that 80 percent of the cafeteria denizens were contractors, some of whom were also being paid by State for their meals. In other words, State paid them a meals per diem and then also fed them. Double cost to the Government! Ten points to Slytherin!

    This was possible because of lazy entrance control. The door was policed when Peter was in Baghdad by a KBR staffer, not a State employee. The main person was a delightful Bosnian young woman, skillful with her makeup and always nicely dressed. She greeted everyone, was the subject of much attention by the male soldiers, and was always friendly when someone showed up having forgotten his/her ID.

    Then again, no one could have really told her who to admit legally anyway; the OIG found State maintained no up-to-date registry of those who are authorized to receive food service support under the LOGCAP contract. The OIG team reviewed the Table of Population (an appendix to task order 151), which is supposed to list organizations eligible for food service support. The team found in 2010 that the table was out-of-date with listings of organizations ranging back to 2006-07.

    Hand Head Count

    The great news is that while the contract required State to maintain an automated method of counting diners, State just did not do it, letting the contractor send an employee from Bosnia to handle things. State paid the contractor for anyone the contractor let in to eat. The automated system required would not have been hard to implement, as the military in Iraq had one they used all over the country with simple, off the shelf technology. State just didn’t bother.


    So how much did all of this free food cost you, the taxpayer? When OIG reviewed food services, equipment and facilities maintenance, and fuel operations, the team was unable to make definitive conclusions because of a lack of available data. For example, in food services, KBR’s headcount records from meals consumed do not match dining facility account records, and OIG was unable to reconcile the difference. These discrepancies suggest that in FY 2009 there were $2.23 million in unsupported food costs but really, with the sloppy record keeping, who knows? In fact, some of the OIG’s primary recommendations to State were to demand from KBR the data needed to actually figure out if the Government is being cheated or not.

    Food Fight

    …and we care because?

    Because State will inherit contracts from the Army for logistics that run into the tens of millions of dollars and that’s a lot of money. Because the State Occupation of Iraq, and State work in Afghanistan, will depend on contractors to succeed, and sloppy mismanagement means that not only will the money be flushed away, but also that the mission will fail.

    Gotta watch the money. Follow the money. It’s all about the money, kiddos.

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    Posted in Embassy/State

    State Fumbles $172.4 Million Intended For Afghan Police Training

    July 15, 2011 // Comments Off on State Fumbles $172.4 Million Intended For Afghan Police Training

    Some things just don’t go well together: hot dogs and ketchup, cats and dogs, and the State Department and contracting.

    Just doesn’t work.

    You’ll recall State Management Droid Pat Kennedy, back in early June, told the Commission on Wartime Contracting how the Department has increased its oversight of contractors. Among other things, State has hired 102 additional people in Washington to administer contracts.

    And then we wrote how State refused to allow the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR) to audit their police training mission. The US has spent billions training Iraqi police since 2003, and little has been accomplished outside the hemorrhaging of US money into the hands of Dynacorp, the contractor designated by the USG to steal all that money. State says SIGIR jurisdiction is limited to “reconstruction” activities, as opposed to “technical assistance and capacity-building.” A fight before Congress will resolve the matter since the kids can’t settle it on their own.

    Wonder why State was so shy about allowing inspections? Maybe this will clarify things.

    A new joint audit found that State didn’t properly handle $172.4 million from funds for the training of the Afghan National Police (ANP). Additionally, the report found that some of those funds went to paying contractors for hours they didn’t work. Some of the money was improperly spent in other areas, even though it was specifically designated for training the ANP.

    The report says that the State Department’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs used $22.47 million for “a United Nations contribution, the Federal Prosecutors Program, counternarcotics personnel salaries, travel costs, and a DynCorp equitable adjustment.” Some money went towards ANP salaries but not training as it was intended.

    More than $300,000 went to travel costs from Texas to Washington for DynCorp personnel to attend weekly meetings, even though DynCorp was supposed to have employees in DC who could have attended the meetings. On top of that, the report found that the transportation, hotel and flight costs were all not in compliance with contract regulations.

    One example is of an employee purchasing a round-trip ticket for $355, but then changing his ticket so many times that it ended up costing $1,931. Some travel costs were for five-day trips, even though meetings only happened on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

    Overall, the report found that the money was misspent because “State lacked adequate procedures for obligating, monitoring, and deobligating funds for the ANP training program.”

    Meanwhile, in other fucked up contract news, State recently signed another contract, worth $8 million, with ArmorGroup to guard the Kabul Embassy.

    ArmorGroup, you’ll recall, used to hold a contract worth an estimated $189 million to protect the embassy. But that was before the Project on Government Oversight revealed in 2009 that the guard force operated a Lord of the Flies environment, complete with pictures documenting it, of guards peeing on people, eating potato chips out of ass cracks, doing vodka shots out of ass cracks, broken doors after drunken brawls, but not “jamming guys in the ass per se.”

    Onward to victory in Afghanistan!!!!!!!!!!!!

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    Posted in Embassy/State