The lawmakers are investigating a billing dispute of at least $750 million between the main supplier of food to U.S. troops in Afghanistan and the Pentagon.
The Pentagon says Supreme Foodservice GmbH overcharged it, but the Netherlands-headquartered company said the rates were properly based on the complexities and dangers of supplying food in war-ravaged Afghanistan.
The Republican and Democratic leaders of a House of Representatives panel have written to the company as well as the Pentagon’s Defense Logistics Agency, demanding information and documents within ten days about the dispute on a contract dating to 2005 that so far has cost U.S. taxpayers $5.5 billion.
The lawmakers’ probe comes amid continuing concerns about waste and abuse of tax dollars in Afghanistan, with scrutiny intensifying as the Pentagon budget faces big cuts.
With such a large sum in dispute, lawmakers questioned the Pentagon’s oversight of the food contract, and also appear worried that Supreme could get the business again when an even larger follow-on contract is awarded this December.
The Pentagon has solicited bids for a follow-on contract estimated at $10 billion to $30 billion over five years, although U.S. combat troops are expected to leave Afghanistan by the end of 2014.
“The American taxpayers refuse to accept a government contractor that bills more than $750 million in unsubstantiated charges, and they refuse to accept the Pentagon’s failure to manage this contract properly,” Representative John Tierney said in a statement.
“It is outrageous that DLA could ever be in the position of possibly overpaying any vendor by three quarters of a billion dollars – especially at a time when troop levels are being scaled back, because funding is tight,” Representative Jason Chaffetz said.