Let's see if the people decrying the oil for food scandal also speak up about this:
An auditing board sponsored by the United Nations recommended yesterday that the United States repay as much as $208 million to the Iraqi government for contracting work in 2003 and 2004 assigned to Kellogg, Brown & Root, the Halliburton subsidiary.
The work was paid for with Iraqi oil proceeds, but the board said it was either carried out at inflated prices or done poorly. The board did not, however, give examples of poor work.
Some of the work involved postwar fuel imports carried out by K.B.R. that previous audits had criticized as grossly overpriced. But this is the first time that an international auditing group has suggested that the United States repay some of that money to Iraq. The group, known as the International Advisory and Monitoring Board of the Development Fund for Iraq, compiled reports from an array of Pentagon, United States government and private auditors to carry out its analysis...
The K.B.R. contracts that have drawn fresh scrutiny also cover services other than fuel deliveries, like building and repairing oil pipelines and installing emergency power generators in Iraq. The documents released yesterday by the monitoring board did not detail problems with specific tasks in those broad categories, but instead summarized a series of newly disclosed audits that called into question $208,491,382 of K.B.R.'s work in Iraq.
A member of the monitoring board said questions about the contracts "had been lingering for a long time." Once the audits are completed, said the board member, who asked not to be identified because he did not want to be seen as speaking for the United Nations, the results will give the Iraqi government "the right to go back to K.B.R. and say, 'Look, you've overbilled me on this, this is what you could repay me.' "
The monitoring board authority extends only to making recommendations on any reimbursement. It would be up to the United States government to decide whether to make the payments, and who should make them. But Louay Bahry, a former Iraqi academic who is now at the Middle East Institute in Washington, said the board's findings would stoke suspicions on the street in Iraq, where there had always been fears that the United States invaded the country to control its oil resources.
"Something like this will be caught in the Iraqi press and be discussed by the Iraqi general public and will leave a very bad taste in the mouth of the Iraqis," Mr. Bahry said. "It will increase the hostility towards the United States."
The audits may also come at a bad time for the Bush administration, since Vice President Dick Cheney's former role as chief executive of Halliburton has led to charges, uniformly dismissed by Mr. Cheney and the company, that it received preferential treatment in receiving the contracts. The early Kellogg, Brown & Root contracts in Iraq were "sole sourced," or bid noncompetitively.