Halliburton Grilled Over Meals

There are new allegations about how well U.S. tax dollars have been used in Iraq. It's just the latest controversy surrounding Halliburton, the Texas company once run by Vice President Cheney - and the U.S. military's biggest contractor in Iraq.

The investigation this time surrounds how many people - from President George W. Bush on down - are really eating in the mess halls of Iraq and Kuwait.

According to sources and published reports, Kellogg, Brown & Root - the Halliburton subsidiary that runs these military dining halls - has billed the government for millions of meals soldiers never ate, because, as CBS News Correspondent Wyatt Andrews, it is billing on the number of meals projected in advance, not the actual number of meals served.

Halliburton says estimating meals is essential because it's hard to know "how many people will be at the dinner table in a war zone." The company vigorously denies it has overcharged, but it has agreed to defer $16 million in payments while an audit continues.

Congressional critics say the meal projections were sometimes three times the number of meals delivered.

"Well, it may be plausible, but 42,000 meals for 14,000 people - that's an estimate that is so far off, you wonder what's going on," says Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif.

The company, meanwhile, in a backlash against months of criticism, has launched an ad campaign to boast of the services it provides the troops in theatre: "We put out a few fires at work," the ad says.

The ad also stresses the pride the company feels delivering the meals: "Serving our troops good ol' American food."

Now, that very meal service has led to a broader Pentagon audit and renewed calls by Democrats for total review of how the administration is contracting all civilian companies for services in Iraq.

  • Jaime Holguin

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