March 2, 2006

Democrats want tougher govt contracting terms

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Legislation that would punish
government contractors for profiteering and cronyism was
introduced on Thursday by Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid and
other Democrats.

The new bill also aims to punish war profiteers with tough
penalties and to "force real competition" in bidding for
lucrative federal contracts, Reid said in a statement.

Democrats have been critical of contracts awarded to
companies for the reconstruction of Iraq and the U.S. Gulf
Coast after deadly Hurricane Katrina last year.

Earlier this week, the U.S. Army said it reimbursed a
subsidiary of Halliburton Co., the oilfield services company
formerly run by Vice President Dick Cheney, for most of $221.9
million in costs disputed by government auditors on a no-bid
contract in Iraq.

A top Army procurement officer, Bunny Greenhouse, last year
described Halliburton's Iraq deals as "contract abuse" and said
auditors flagged more than $1 billion in potential overcharges.

Sen. Byron Dorgan of North Dakota, a co-sponsor of the new
bill, said the legislation would set new standards to "restore
integrity to a federal contracting process that has too often
been operated in a manner that neither ensures confidence nor
that taxpayers get a fair return for what they have paid."

It was not immediately clear if the legislation could win
support from Republicans, who control both chambers of