Copyrighted material


by Emad Mekay

on Wolfowitz controversy

(IPS) WASHINGTON -- An unidentified U.S. Defense Department official directed subordinates to hire four specific outside contractors for Iraq-related work, including Shaha Riza, the girlfriend of then-Deputy Secretary of Defense and current World Bank president Paul Wolfowitz, newly disclosed documents show.

The two documents -- the first a contract between a defense company and the Pentagon, the second a report by the Pentagon's Inspector General, both disclosed by the Government Accountability Project (GAP) a Washington-based whistleblower protection organization -- give new details surrounding the controversial contract involving Riza.

The Pentagon said Wednesday it would look into it.

Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said the department is "having to go back and look at the paper trail" related to the 2003 contract under which Riza, who was then already romantically involved with Wolfowitz, worked for San Diego-based Science Applications International Corp. (SAIC), a defense contractor retained by the Pentagon just before the March 2003 Iraq war.

The revelations could add fuel to the nepotism scandal surrounding Wolfowitz about his role in arranging an unusually generous pay-and-promotion package for his 52-year-old girlfriend and Bank staffer, Riza, one of the four individuals hired under the Pentagon contract in question.

"This shows that there's a pattern of mutual benefit between Paul Wolfowitz and Shaha Riza and that what happened at the Bank is not simply one incident or one mistake," Bea Edwards of GAP told IPS.

The first document disclosed by the watchdog group is a March 2004 report by the Pentagon's Inspector General (IG), who investigated a series of contracts for the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance (ORHA), the predecessor to the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), in Iraq where SAIC worked.

ORHA, an ad hoc taskforce specially created one month before the Iraq invasion, handled those contracts, according to the report.

ORHA was run by retired general Jay Garner, who in turn reported to the Undersecretary of Defence for Policy, Douglas Feith. Feith's immediate superior was then-Deputy Defence Secretary of Defence Paul Wolfowitz.

On June 16, 2003, ORHA was dissolved and the CPA, under Ambassador L. Paul Bremer, assumed ORHA functions.

The report found that hiring decisions, including that of Riza, were made "before the contract's terms of reference were determined"; meaning that the Pentagon may have placed greater emphasis on who was to do the work than on what precisely that person would be doing.

The 70-page text found that an official, who is not otherwise identified in the IG's report, wanted four specific people, so-called "Subject Matter Experts", hired under the contract.

That the procedure by which the four "experts'' were hired was abnormal was underlined by the quotation in the IG's report from an email in which the demand by the responsible official to hire the four is conveyed.

Reprinted in the report: "[A]n email from one DCMA [Defence Contract Management Agency] specialist, dated March 21, 2003, to another DCMA specialist stated:

Four names, attached, are contractors that [ORHA Official] wants hired for the 'Governance Group.' I'm going to get more details. But wanted to forward to you soonest. Perhaps you can check with SAIC to see if they already have these guys on their list, or any other info."

The report further says that: "The DCMA specialist who was involved with the contracts explained that ORHA officials would contact and inform him that a specific person needed to be put on contract."

The IG's investigation goes on to say that "the statement of work was then developed based on a brief statement from ORHA officials and the skill level of that specific person."

The report adds: "To illustrate the attitude of ORHA personnel who were generating requirements the specialist stated that he was told: 'these are the people we need to bring on board, and here is going to be the minimum requirements for their job, and make the rest of it happen'."

GAP said the apparent fact that Riza may have been hired as a result of such an irregular process should prompt further questions, given her relationship with Wolfowitz at the time.

"Who really was directing the Defense Department at that point? Who was this OHRA official who wanted Shaha Riza specifically hired?" asked Dylan Blaylock of GAP.

Another document also obtained by GAP shows that the contract between the Pentagon and SAIC establishes that Riza was to be paid about 17,000 dollars a month for her work in Iraq.

A SAIC spokeswoman told IPS that the company was ordered to hire Riza as a "subject matter expert" but said it only covered her expenses.

"We actually were directed by the office of undersecretary of defense for policy to enter into a subcontract with her as a subject matter expert as part of the Iraq governance groups. We didn't' have a role in the selection of who made up that group," Melissa Koskovich of SAIC told IPS. "Actually at her own request, she was only paid expenses, no salary."

Riza's attorney, Victoria Toensing, told the New York Times this week that Riza was not paid by SAIC at the time. Toensing also said Riza took an unpaid leave from the Bank.

"If, as her attorney stated, Riza wasn't paid by SAIC, then disbursements were not made in compliance with the contract,'' GAP said.

"If SAIC billed the Defense Department for her labour under the contract, but didn't pay her, SAIC should explain this discrepancy. The public needs the facts to understand what happened here.''

The SAIC contract, seen by IPS, shows SAIC received $235,231 for services related to the four experts from the Pentagon.

"We are standing by our statement that Riza was paid expenses, but no salary," the SAIC spokeswoman said.

Labor costs are shown as "T&M" (time and materials) in the detailed contract, while other expenses such as travel are shown as "ODC" (other direct costs). The contract shows that consultants were to be paid labour costs.

Riza and Wolfowitz are already fending off accusations of wrongdoing after Wolfowitz gave her an extraordinary pay hike and promotion as part of a compensation package for her secondment to the State Department during Wolfowitz' tenure at the Bank.

Wolfowitz has also been accused of failing to disclose his role in devising the package.

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Albion Monitor   April 19, 2007   (

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