Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Stop veteran abuse

VA NEWS FLASH from Larry Scott at VA Watchdog dot Org
<http://www.vawatchdog.org> -- 04-04-2006 #6
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PLAN TO BUILD 142 HEALTHCARE CLINICS IN IRAQ FALTERS -- ONLY 20

BUILT AT A COST OF $10 MILLION EACH -- IMAGINE IF THE VA

HAD THIS KIND OF FUNDING

I want you to think about this quote from the story: "...expected to
lay the foundation of a modern health care system for the country,
putting quality medical care within reach of all Iraqis."

What about quality medical care with the reach of all veterans?

Another absurdity!

It is truly saddening to think that we are trying to give to other
countries that which we don't have ourselves.

This must change.

Story here...
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/04/02/AR2006040201209.html?referrer=email&referrer=email&referrer=email
<http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/04/02/AR2006040201209.html?referrer=email&referrer=email&referrer=email>

Story below:

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U.S. Plan to Build Iraq Clinics Falters

Contractor Will Try to Finish 20 of 142 Sites

By Ellen Knickmeyer
Washington Post Foreign Service
Monday, April 3, 2006; Page A01

BAGHDAD -- A reconstruction contract for the building of 142 primary
health centers across Iraq is running out of money, after two years and
roughly $200 million, with no more than 20 clinics now expected to be
completed, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says.

The contract, awarded to U.S. construction giant Parsons Inc. in the
flush, early days of reconstruction in Iraq, was expected to lay the
foundation of a modern health care system for the country, putting
quality medical care within reach of all Iraqis.

Parsons, according to the Corps, will walk away from more than 120
clinics that on average are two-thirds finished. Auditors say the
project serves as a warning for other U.S. reconstruction efforts due to
be completed this year.

Brig. Gen. William McCoy, the Army Corps commander overseeing
reconstruction in Iraq, said he still hoped to complete all 142 clinics
as promised and was seeking emergency funds from the U.S. military and
foreign donors. "I'm fairly confident," McCoy said.

Coming with little public warning, the 86 percent shortfall of
completions dismayed the World Health Organization's representative for
Iraq. "That's not good. That's shocking," Naeema al-Gasseer said by
telephone from Cairo. "We're not sending the right message here. That's
affecting people's expectations and people's trust, I must say."

By the end of 2006, the $18.4 billion that Washington has allocated for
Iraq's reconstruction runs out. All remaining projects in the U.S.
reconstruction program, including electricity, water, sewer, health care
and the justice system, are due for completion. As a result, the next
nine months are crunchtime for the easy-term contracts that were awarded
to American contractors early on, before surging violence drove up
security costs and idled workers.

Stuart Bowen, the top U.S. auditor for reconstruction, warned in a
telephone interview from Washington that other reconstruction efforts
may fall short like that of Parsons. "I've been consumed for a year with
the fear we would run out of money to finish projects," said Bowen, the
inspector general for reconstruction in Iraq.

The reconstruction campaign in Iraq is the largest such American
undertaking since World War II. The rebuilding efforts have remained a
point of pride for American troops and leaders as they struggle with an
insurgency and now Shiite Muslim militias and escalating sectarian conflict.

The Corps of Engineers says the campaign so far has renovated or built
3,000 schools, upgraded 13 hospitals and created hundreds of border
forts and police stations. Major projects this summer, the Corps says,
should noticeably improve electricity and other basic services, which
have fallen below prewar levels despite the billions of dollars that the
United States already has expended toward reconstruction here.

Violence for which the United States failed to plan has consumed up to
half the $18.4 billion through higher costs to guard project sites and
workers and through direct shifts of billions of dollars to build Iraq's
police and military.

In January, Bowen's office calculated the American reconstruction effort
would be able to finish only 300 of 425 promised electricity projects
and 49 of 136 water and sanitation projects.

U.S. authorities say they made a special effort to preserve the more
than $700 million of work for Iraq's health care system, which had
fallen into decay after two decades of war and international sanctions.

Doctors in Baghdad's hospitals still cite dirty water as one of the
major killers of infants. The city's hospitals place medically troubled
newborns two to an incubator, when incubators work at all.

Early in the occupation, U.S. officials mapped out the construction of
300 primary-care clinics, said Gasseer, the WHO official. In addition to
spreading basic health care beyond the major cities into small towns,
the clinics were meant to provide training for Iraq's medical
professionals. "Overall, they were considered vital," she said.

In April 2004, the project was awarded to Parsons Inc. of Pasadena,
Calif., a leading construction firm in domestic and international
markets. McCoy, the Corps of Engineers commander, said Parsons has been
awarded about $1 billion in reconstruction projects in Iraq.

Like much U.S. government work in 2003 and 2004, the contract was
awarded on terms known as "cost-plus," Parsons said, meaning that the
company could bill the government for its actual cost, rather than a
cost agreed to at the start, and add a profit margin. The deal was also
classified as "design-build," in which the contractor oversees the
project from design to completion.

These terms, among the most generous possible for contractors, were
meant to encourage companies to undertake projects in a dangerous
environment and complete them quickly.

McCoy said Parsons subcontracted the clinics to four main Iraqi
companies, which often hired local firms to do the actual construction,
creating several tiers of overhead costs.

Starting in 2004, the need for security sent costs soaring. Insurgent
attacks forced companies to organize mini-militias to guard employees
and sites; work often was idled when sites were judged to be too
dangerous. Western contractors often were reduced to monitoring work
sites by photographs, Parsons officials said.

"Security degenerated from the beginning. The expectations on the part
of Parsons and the U.S. government was we would have a very benign
construction environment, like building a clinic in Falls Church," said
Earnest Robbins, senior vice president for the international division of
Parsons in Fairfax, Va. Difficulty choosing sites for the clinics also
delayed work, Robbins said.

Faced with a growing insurgency, U.S. authorities in 2004 took funding
away from many projects to put it into building up Iraqi security forces.

"During that period, very little actual project work, dirt-turning, was
being done," Bowen said. At the same time, "we were paying large
overhead for contractors to remain in-country." Overhead has consumed 40
percent to 50 percent of the clinic project's budget, McCoy said.

In 2005, plans were scaled back to build 142 primary clinics by December
of that year, an extended deadline. By December, however, only four had
been completed, reconstruction officials said. Two more were finished
weeks later. With the money almost all gone, the Corps of Engineers and
Parsons reached what both sides described as a negotiated settlement
under which Parsons would try to finish 14 more clinics by early April
and then leave the project.

The agreement stipulated that the contract was terminated by consensus,
not for cause, the Corps and Parsons said.

Both said the Corps had wanted to cancel the contract outright, and
McCoy rejected the reasons that Parsons put forward for the slow progress.

"In the time they completed 45 projects, I completed 500 projects," he
said. Parsons has a number of other contracts in Baghdad, from
oil-facility upgrades to border forts to prisons. "The fact is it is
hard, but there are companies over here that are doing it."

Bowen called the outcome "a worst-case scenario. I think it's an
anomaly." He said, however, that U.S. reconstruction overseers
overwhelmingly have neglected to keep running track of the remaining
costs of each project, leaving it unclear until the end whether the
costs are equal to the budget.

"I can't say this isn't going to happen again, because we really haven't
gotten a grasp" of the cost of finishing the many pending projects,
Bowen said.

---------------

Larry Scott

(go back to VA Watchdog dot Org Home Page) <http://www.vawatchdog.org>

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