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KBR won bonuses after US soldier died

Work eyed amid electrocutions

Electrical inspector Jim Childs testified before Congress yesterday on work by KBR Inc. as Cheryl Harris, mother of late Green Beret Staff Sergeant Ryan Maseth, listened. Electrical inspector Jim Childs testified before Congress yesterday on work by KBR Inc. as Cheryl Harris, mother of late Green Beret Staff Sergeant Ryan Maseth, listened. (J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press)
By Kimberly Hefling
Associated Press / May 21, 2009
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WASHINGTON - Military contractor KBR Inc. was paid $83.4 million in bonuses for electrical work in Iraq - much of the money coming even after that work was declared to be shoddy, a senator said yesterday.

Senator Byron Dorgan, a North Dakota Democrat, said he learned of the bonuses from Pentagon documents. Dorgan chairs the Democrats' Policy Committee, which examined at a hearing the electrocution deaths of US troops in Iraq.

At least three troops have been electrocuted while showering in Iraq, and others have been injured and killed in other electrical incidents. KBR, which has the responsibility of maintaining electrical work in tens of thousands of US facilities in Iraq, has denied any responsibility in the deaths.

But Dorgan said evidence suggests KBR's work was involved in some of the deaths. He said $34 million in bonuses was paid three months after Green Beret Staff Sergeant Ryan Maseth, 24, was electrocuted while showering in his barracks in Iraq on Jan. 2, 2008. Maseth's family has sued KBR, alleging wrongful death.

KBR was once a subsidiary of Halliburton, the oil services company headed by Dick Cheney before his two terms as vice president.

Jim Childs, an electrical inspector hired by the Army to help inspect US-run facilities in Iraq testified that 90 percent of the wiring done by KBR in newly constructed buildings was done improperly. He said that means that an estimated 70,000 buildings where troops live and work in Iraq were not up to code.

Heather Browne, a KBR spokeswoman, said in a statement that the company is cooperating.