Monday, April 25, 2011

US Embassaurus: No Seismic Bracing? No Big Deal... Did We Get That $132M Refund?

No More Heroes (album)Image via Wikipedia... did not know Baghdad is in an quake zone, sorry!

The State Department's OIG office had posted its Audit of the Design and Construction of the New Embassy Compound in Baghdad over a year ago. I saw the report right after it was released, read it, and sat stewing about it. This embassaurus is a supreme gift that just kept on giving, doesn't it? Here is part of it:
"Seismic bracing is normally provided for the protection of fire lines and other critical mechanical systems in the event of an earthquake. We found no evidence that First Kuwaiti or its subcontractors considered seismic bracing in their analyses or designs. In addition, we found that First Kuwaiti did not provide seismic bracing for fire protection lines and mechanical or electrical equipment in those parts of the NEC facilities built by First Kuwaiti. The COR told us that she did not enforce the seismic bracing requirement because an OBO fire protection engineer told her that although bracing was required by code, it was “no big deal.” The COR also stated that she was unaware that Baghdad was in an earthquake zone."

Okdok. But wait -- I know zilch about construction. But I don't understand this. The codes and requirements are there for a reason, right? Why put the requirement in if its non-inclusion is "no big deal?" And why was it a no a big deal? Because the seismic intensity around Baghdad is moderate? Or is that because the dangers of an earthquake is overshadowed by the dangers of war? How many got killed in the last Baghdad earthquake? And how many got killed by snipers and EIDs?

The report also recommended getting a refund to the tune of $132 million from First Kuwaiti. The report, of course, did not call it a refund, and says only that the State Department "attempt to recover," that amount.
"As a result of construction deficiencies, incomplete and undocumented design work, additional maintenance charges attributable to inadequate quality control and commissioning procedures, and unrecovered liquidated damages and interest on unauthorized advance mobilization payments, we recommend that the Department of State attempt to recover more than $132 million from First Kuwaiti."

An estimated $43.2 million alone is to bring construction deficiencies to contract standards. The report cited the following construction deficiencies:
  • $4.6 million to repair safe areas, which are vital to protecting staff in emergency situations but which were not constructed according to contract specifications.
  • $14 million to install seismic bracing, which is required for safeguarding fire protection lines and other critical mechanical systems that First Kuwaiti had not completed.
  • $200,000 to correct deficiencies at the water treatment plant.
  • $1.7 million to repair the NEC wall surfaces and concrete walkways that were improperly installed and are now subject to cracking.
  • $200,000 to replace motor pool vehicle lifts that are not serviceable.
  • $500,000 to repair the NEC’s power plant for inadequate air flow because changes to the configuration of the power plant were not supported by appropriate design work.
  • $11 million in additional operating costs for the less efficient power plant equipment over its lifetime.
  • $4.4 million to repair the NEC’s power distribution system because First Kuwaiti substituted a less reliable system, including using nonstandard wiring.
  • $500,000 to complete and correct functions of the building automation system that is critical to monitor, measure, and optimize energy usage.
  • $4.6 million to correct fire protection systems because the walls in the housing units were not compliant with code and fire protection water mains were improperly constructed.
  • $1.5 million to correct plumbing deficiencies at over 200 locations at the NEC.

This is a report from 2009, you see. The reason I'm digging it up is I'm wondering if the U.S. Government ever recovered any of that money.

There are overseas posts with no lights in their hallways in an attempt to save money from an already pitiful budget already slashed down from prior years. There are people holding 2-3 jobs because there are not enough people and money to go around (that is, if you're not in Baghdad, Kabul or Islamabad). Can you understand why one can get a tad cranky with a report like this?

What were they THINKING, really (sorry for using my uppercase voice) -- but constructing that embassaurus of a building out there and blah, blah, blah? Well, it's too late for any rants now, the folks who made this possible have mostly retired to their quarters with their Tivos. And the building is there to stay, a stark lamp post in history - or a bright one, depending on which memoir you read or what history book you stick your nose in.

As the government got on  with civilian de-surging or downlifting and downsizing previously and again upsizing and bulking up the embassy in Iraq this year, I wonder how much of the construction deficiencies have actually been fixed? Or will new moneys need to be allocated to fixed these deficiencies if no refund materialized? $132 million is not pocket change. That amount can build an entirely new embassy compound elsewhere that's not the size of the Vatican City.

I do wish there is a somebody out there with cojones ala "go ahead, make my day Harry" to tell it like it is -- no refund and forgettaboutbiddinagain. Simple English, don't need another lengthy report for follow up.  

Related Item:

Audit of the Design and Construction of the NEC Baghdad
OIG Report No. AUD/IQO-09-25| October 2009

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