A non-profit company in El Paso -- The National Center for Employment of the Disabled (NCED) -- was raided last week by 70 federal agents investigating whether it violated the terms of its no-bid contracts to produce chemical protection suits for soldiers.
Under the contract, 75 percent of the work was to be completed by severely disabled employees. The Committee for Purchase from People Who Are Blind or Severely Disabled – the federal panel overseeing such contracts – indicates that, in fact, only 7.8 percent of the labor was performed by severely disabled workers.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the NCED was awarded $1.2 billion "in recent years", and $276 million in the fiscal year ending in October. But now its government contracts have been suspended and federal agents have confiscated more than 1,000 boxes of documents and computer information from the company.
Good to see that the federal panel is doing its job, but one wonders where these same agents – drawn from the FBI, GSA, IRS, and US Army – are when it comes to investigating Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg Brown and Root and its water purification failures? Or that same company's $263 million in disputed charges to the government? Or the 50 lawsuits filed by whistleblowers against firms like Halliburton that are suspected of defrauding the government (and the American public) – suits that are being held up in court by the Bush administration? And let's not forget that $9 billion was simply lost -- that's right, lost, gone, nowhere -- by the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA).
Once again, the unevenness and even arbitrary nature of profiteering investigations points to the critical need for a bipartisan, independent War Profiteering Commission. Such a body -- empowered with the ability to subpoena and fully investigate all questions of fraud, waste, corruption, and mismanagement -- would give the American people confidence that justice will be served on these worst acts of betrayal.
And, of course, if the Democrats take back the House in November Congressional committees with subpoena power could complement the work of the War Profiteering Commission. This oversight is crucial because when it comes to getting at the truth, Bush & Co. will simply leave it to The Committee for Purchase from People Who Are Blind or Severely Disabled to scapegoat outfits like NCED, while the Halliburtons continue to walk.
MOVIE NOTE: Fortunately we also have courageous filmakers like Robert Greenwald, who are determined to hold the war profiteers accountable. His next film will expose how the White House has put a greater value on rewarding well-connected war profiteers than ensuring our security. The film -- set for release before November's midterm elections -- brings together new and explosive footage. Click here for more info and ways you can help get out the word.