Oversight committee to probe embassy construction in Baghdad
Michael Roston
Published: Thursday July 5, 2007
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Amid reports of escalating trouble in the construction of the new US Embassy in Baghdad, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform announced that it would investigate the project to build what will be America's largest overseas diplomatic post.

"The Committee on Oversight and Government Reform will hold a hearing on construction delays and problems plaguing the U.S. Embassy construction project in Baghdad, a $592 million project," said the release from the Oversight Committee sent to RAW STORY. "The hearing will examine the performance, billing, and labor practices of government contractors, including the record of oversight of contractors by the United States government."

The Committee, chaired by Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), made its announcement on the tails of reports of major safety problems and significant delays in Thursday's Washington Post, with particular attention to a base built to house the guards who will protect the sprawling embassy.

"The first signs of trouble, according to the cable, emerged when the kitchen staff tried to cook the inaugural meal in the new guard base on May 15," said the report from Glenn Kesler. "Some appliances did not work. Workers began to get electric shocks. Then a burning smell enveloped the kitchen as the wiring began to melt."

A government official told Kessler anonymously that the problems in the guard base would probably expand to the embassy itself.

"We are suspecting we will find the same issues in the new embassy," the official said.

The contractor in charge of the project, First Kuwaiti General Trade and Contracting Co., was reportedly faced a 'human trafficking' investigation according to a Wall Street Journal report last month.

"The Department of Justice launched the probe of First Kuwaiti General Trading & Contracting Co. after former employees alleged that workers at the company were told they were being sent to Dubai, only to wind up in Iraq instead... First Kuwaiti confiscated the workers' passports, so they were unable to depart Baghdad, these people said," wrote Yochi J. Dreazen on June 7.

But the Post's Kessler reported that a manager of the construction project defended First Kuwaiti, and pinned the delays and problems on the US government and Kellog, Brown, and Root, a construction firm with links to Halliburton.