WASHINGTON - A defense contractor hired to repair combat equipment routinely failed to do the job right and then charged the government millions of dollars for the extra work needed to get the gear ready for battle in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to a newly released audit.
Overall, the contractor's employees at Camp Arifjan in Kuwait worked about 188,000 additional hours to fix Humvees, heavy transporters and fighting vehicles that allegedly were mended but flunked a military inspection, the Government Accountability Office said.
The GAO estimates the Army paid $4.2 million for the additional labor. Under the terms of the $581 million contract, the company is to be paid for all maintenance hours worked. That includes "labor hours associated with maintenance performed after the Army rejects equipment that fails to meet Army maintenance standards," said the GAO, which is the investigative arm of Congress.
The contractor is not named in the GAO audit. The contract number is, however. The Federal Procurement Data System, a Web site that tracks government contracts, shows ITT Federal Services International of Colorado Springs, Colo., as the company performing the work.
In a statement, ITT spokesman Tom Glover said the company does not agree with the GAO's conclusions.
"We have taken numerous corrective actions and have dramatically improved our performance," Glover said. "We believe that we have met the requirements of the contract and have fully supported the mission needs of the U.S. Army."
In one case, a semitrailer used for hauling massive M-1 tanks was fixed and submitted to the Army as ready for return to the field. It failed inspection. After that, the contractor charged the government for 636 hours of repair work before it passed inspection more than three months later.
In another instance, a Bradley Fighting Vehicle failed inspection after a cotter pin in the brake assembly was found to be missing and could have left the heavy vehicle with no way to stop.
As part of the contract, the contractor was also required to thoroughly clean vehicles and other gear before it was returned to the United States. This step ensures the equipment doesn't come back with dirt and other contaminants that could cause public health problems.
The contractor didn't do that job well either.
"We observed an inspection in which a contractor employee was trying to remove water from the interior piece of equipment with his hands and the vehicle tracks were clearly filled with mud," the auditors said.
The Army attributes the shoddy performance to flaws with the contractor's quality control systems and its reliance on the military to point out what was wrong with the gear, according to the GAO. But auditors said the Army did a poor job of monitoring the company's performance. That's partly due to a shortage of qualified contracting personnel.
The audit, which is an interim report on a broader GAO investigation of war support contracts, was released Wednesday by the House Appropriations defense subcommittee.
Copyright © 2008 The Associated Press.