A federal judge ruled today that Kellogg, Brown & Root (KBR) and Halliburton must face whistleblower claims that they bilked money from the government. A former KBR employee filed the whistleblower lawsuit in 2005, claiming that KBR, Halliburton, Service Employees International, KBR Services Inc. and KBR Technical Services inflated the amount of soldiers using KBR facilities in Iraq in order to boost the fees they could bill the government.
The defendants in the case had been contracted by the government to provide logistical and life-support services for the military in Iraq. This included camp construction, power generation, water services, laundry, dining facilities, fire protection and recreational facilities, among other things.
Relator Julie McBride was a coordinator at a KBR recreational facility (also known as Morale, Welfare and Recreation, or MWR facility) where she was responsible for keeping a head count of the soldiers that entered MWR facilities in Camp Fallujah. The head counts, according to McBride, were used to decide on staffing numbers as well as how much KBR could bill the government. AcFcording to the lawsuit, McBride claims that KBR instructed her to inflate the head counts by asking soldiers to sign in when they entered a facility, then she would take an hourly count of people in each room. She also counted equipment as military personnel, in some cases counting ping pong sets, towels or water bottles in the head counts. McBride claims that this artificially inflated the total head count, resulting in the government footing the bill for troops being counted multiple times.
McBride claims that she was fired in March 2005 after reporting the alleged fraud. She filed her whistleblower lawsuit in April 2005. In 2007, U.S. District Judge Henry Kennedy Jr. stripped away some of McBride’s allegations but allowed her to pursue her allegations of head count inflation.
In the most recent proceedings, KBR urged U.S. District Judge Frederick J. Scullin Jr. to toss all of McBride’s claims. According to Courthouse News, Judge Scullin dismissed one of McBride’s claims that KBR violated the False Claims Act by “siphoning” equipment meant for MWR facilities for company use. But in the end, the judge allowed McBride’s allegation of head count inflation to proceed.