Oversight Committee Schedules Hearing on US Embassy in Baghdad

July 5, 2007
Blog
From the Oversight Committee:

Oversight Committee Announces Hearing on Waste, Fraud, and Abuse in the U.S. Embassy Construction Project in Baghdad's Green Zone

WASHINGTON, DC -- On Thursday, July 26, the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform will hold a hearing on construction delays and problems plaguing the U.S. Embassy construction project in Baghdad, a $592 million project. The hearing will examine the performance, billing, and labor practices of government contractors, including the record of oversight of contractors by the United States government. The Subcommittee on National Security and Foreign Affairs has also been reviewing these matters.

WHEN: 10:00 a.m. on Thursday, July 26

WHERE: 2154 Rayburn House Office Building

Construction Woes Add to Fears at Embassy in Iraq

Glenn Kessler, Washington Post - July 5, 2007

U.S. diplomats in Iraq, increasingly fearful over their personal safety after recent mortar attacks inside the Green Zone, are pointing to new delays and mistakes in the U.S. Embassy construction project in Baghdad as signs that their vulnerability could grow in the months ahead.

A toughly worded cable sent from the embassy to State Department headquarters on May 29 highlights a cascade of building and safety blunders in a new facility to house the security guards protecting the embassy. The guards' base, which remains unopened today, is just a small part of a $592 million project to build the largest U.S. embassy in the world.

The main builder of the sprawling, 21-building embassy is First Kuwaiti General Trade and Contracting Co., a Middle Eastern firm that is already under Justice Department scrutiny over alleged labor abuses. First Kuwaiti also erected the guard base, prompting some State Department officials in Washington and Baghdad to worry that the problems exposed in the camp suggest trouble lurking ahead for the rest of the embassy complex.

The first signs of trouble, according to the cable, emerged when the kitchen staff tried to cook the inaugural meal in the new guard base on May 15. Some appliances did not work. Workers began to get electric shocks. Then a burning smell enveloped the kitchen as the wiring began to melt.

All the food from the old guard camp -- a collection of tents -- had been carted to the new facility, in the expectation that the 1,200 guards would begin moving in the next day. But according to the cable, the electrical meltdown was just the first problem in a series of construction mistakes that soon left the base uninhabitable, including wiring problems, fuel leaks and noxious fumes in the sleeping trailers.

"Poor quality construction . . . life safety issues . . . left [the embassy] with no recourse but to shut the camp down, in spite of the blistering heat in Baghdad," the May 29 cable informed Washington.