Human trafficking alleged in Iraq contracting

Tuesday - 7/27/2010, 10:08am EDT

Mike Thibault, co-chair, Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan

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By Suzanne Kubota
Senior Internet Editor
FederalNewsRadio.com

Subcontractors in Iraq and Afghanistan are using human trafficking to fill open jobs, Mike Thibault, co-chair of the Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan, tells Federal News Radio.

At least one-third of the 200,000 contracted employees in Iraq and Afghanistan work for subcontractors, and many of them are allegedly slaves.

"We're talking about individuals that were hired from foreign countries in order to come into Iraq but were told they were going to be working in places like Dubai and Kuwait. And when they showed up, they were flown into Iraq," said Thibault.

Then, said Thibault, the subs "take your passport. They threaten you that the money that they advanced to you, you won't be able to pay back and you'll be in arrears and then they send you to Iraq. In an area you didn't sign up for. Something's wrong."

Since they work for subcontractors, the government has no direct oversight into who they are and what they do.

"This is something that should not occur. It shouldn't occur ever," declared Thibault.

How the subcontractors fill slots of people who can do basic jobs like food service and logistical support is in question, said Thibault. "It's worthy of a hearing by itself!"

Who should be responsible and "where it flows up through the Executive Branch, I would just be speculating with you, but a week from now I won't be speculating with you because we're going to drill down into it."

Thibault said another focus of the Commission yesterday was on a Defense Contract Audit Agency review of prime contractors' billing and cost records.

"Pat Fitzgerald (Director of DCAA) indicated he's now up to $21 billion dollars in questioned and unsupported costs where he's taken exceptions out of some $97 billion dollars in contract awards. That is just unprecedented in terms of percentage."

Both issues, said Thibault, are a result of oversight, or a lack of it. The government is supposed to have oversight of the prime contractors, who in turn are supposed to have oversight of the subs.

Thibault said he'd like to see a change in the law so the government can have more oversight and access to subs. Contractors, of course, are pushing back, but between the costs and human rights issues being raised, current oversight clearly isn't getting the job done.

Or, as Thibault put it, "this is a major miss."

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