This just in:
KABUL, Afghanistan — Two contractor companies working for the U.S. military in Afghanistan have had their contracting privileges suspended over allegations they failed to pay their Afghan subcontractors, the U.S. Central Command said Wednesday.
Coalition forces said in a statement that several Afghan companies brought allegations of nonpayment against Bennett-Fouch Associates and K5 Global, both of which are owned by the same person, identified as an American woman named Sarah Lee.
“The failure of firms to pay their local national workforce or local national subcontractors adversely affects counterinsurgency strategy,” the coalition said in the statement.
The local companies that brought the allegations provided documents showing that Bennett-Fouch, which was involved in construction contracts at military bases in Afghanistan, had claimed it had not been paid by the U.S. government, the statement said. However, the coalition said that “in reality, the U.S. government had paid Bennett-Fouch for the work on the construction projects.”
The company had closed its local offices and bank accounts in Afghanistan, the coalition statement said.
“Bennett-Fouch’s subcontractors were Afghan companies who depended on the revenue to pay workers and complete projects. U.S. law does not allow the government to pay subcontractors directly,” the statement said, adding that the local companies had been “informed of their opportunity for recourse against the contractors through the U.S. court system.”
The suspension of could last 18 months while the case is being investigated, it said, and the companies could be barred from further contracts depending on the results of the investigation, meaning they would not be able to “conduct business with the U.S. for a period commensurate with the seriousness of the crimes or causes of the debarment, normally not to exceed five years.”
The victims of this rip-off – Afghans who thought they were working for the United States Government – “have been informed of their opportunity for recourse against the the contractors through the U.S. court system”? Whiskey. Tango. Foxtrot. Those opportunities don’t exist. Even assuming they can find and pay lawyers, how are they supposed to get their witnesses in front of a court, when airfare from Kabul probably exceeds the amount at stake for any one victim? And of course the defaulting firms will have been looted by their owner, leaving them judgment-proof.
In a sane world, the U.S. would either indict the owner for defrauding the government or ask Afghanistan to indict the owner for defrauding the subcontactors and extradite her to Afghanistan to stand trial. That would encourage other contractors not to war profiteer by fleecing the people we’re trying to get on our side.
More important, the U.S. would pay the just claims of the sub-contractors – not being excessively particular about documentation – and then sue the fraud operator to recover the money.