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U.S. Air Force will seek repayment on $4.3 million in taxpayer dollars

(Washington, D.C.) – After a thorough internal investigation requested by U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), the United States Air Force has decided to seek reimbursement of $4.3 million in taxpayer dollars spent on repairs after poor contractor work caused several fires at a facility in Afghanistan. Shaheen has pushed the Air Force to heed the recommendation of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), who found that sub-standard construction by a contractor was to blame for costly electrical failures.

SIGAR’s October 2011 audit report on construction of the Kabul Military Training Facility found that shoddy work by London-based AMEC Earth and Environmental, Inc. was responsible for major electrical failures. Five electrical fires broke out in four separate facilities between November and December of 2008, which required repairs costing $4.3 million. The Air Force initially rejected the inspector general’s recommendation to seek a refund from the contractor, leaving the U.S. taxpayers on the hook for the necessary repairs.

But after a letter from Shaheen in December 2011, the Air Force agreed to open a new investigation. After a 6-month review, the Air Force Center for Engineering and the Environment (AFCEE) reversed its original decision and agreed to seek reimbursement from AMEC for the full $4.3 million.

“The United States government has an obligation to the American people to ensure that our resources are used in a cost-effective manner.” Shaheen said. “Government contractors must be held accountable when they cut corners, and I am glad that the Air Force has chosen to aggressively pursue damages.”

“The SIGAR audit and internal ACFEE investigation indicate that poor construction practice and counterfeit materials, along with inadequate quality control contributed to AMEC’s failure to comply with contract terms,” wrote Terry Edwards, Director of AFCEE, in a letter to Senator Shaheen. “After further review, AFCEE agrees that it is in the taxpayer’s interest to pursue a settlement and will seek reimbursement for costs expended to correct deficient work … We greatly appreciate [Senator Shaheen’s] vigilance and commitment to the well being of our troops and allies in Afghanistan.”

Shaheen has been a strong voice in pushing for greater accountability of taxpayer dollars in Afghanistan. This past year, she pushed for effective and coordinated oversight to ensure efficient use of civilian aid and helped to secure the appointment of an empowered senior civilian coordinator in Afghanistan. She also wrote to President Obama seeking a dramatic overhaul of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), following audits that found accounts of ineffectual spending.