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Halliburton Defends Charging $73.28 For Snickers Bars
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WASHINGTON - The Pentagon is investigating Halliburton for possible price gouging after an internal audit showed that various items being supplied to local Iraqi shops were being grossly overpriced. "The Iraqi economy is in shambles, so naturally we are subsidizing their imports to a large extent. A citizen walks into a shop and pays twenty cents for a candy bar, they don't even think about the fact that they are getting a deal," said General Loren Maytiff, director of procurement of goods for sale in Iraq's retail establishments, "but even we didn't realize how sweet of a deal they were getting."

Questions came up after it was discovered that Halliburton's KBR subsidiary had been overcharging for gasoline. This prompted a full blown audit of all purchases made through Halliburton in the past 30 days. It was revealed that many small items had been grossly overpriced. Examples include:

  • Snickers Bar - $1,758.72/case ($73.28/bar)
  • Coca-Cola - $125/case ($10.42/can)
  • Lay's Potato Chips - $253.25/case ($21.10/bag)
This means that when an Iraqi citizen pays $2 for a sandwich lunch and a snack, the U.S. Government paid over $100 for those items. "It's outrageous," said Joseph Lieberman, Senator and Democratic Presidential hopeful, "to think that the American people are being saddled with debt to pay for the reconstruction, then an American company steals those precious dollars. It's egregious."

"This isn't Wal-Mart," responded David Lesar, the chief executive of Halliburton, "we don't guarantee low, low prices. We guarantee availability. We guarantee the safety of our personnel in a war zone. We negotiate with dark people in dark alleys to get products where there is no one else to deal with. Do you think there is a happy, smiling Coca-Cola distributor in Kuwait, waiting to drive his truck over the border? Think again. Our prices support all those efforts."

"Baloney," said Vice-President Dick Cheney, clearly interested in distancing himself from his former company amid this scrutiny, "There are higher costs, sure. But $70 for a candy bar? I've got a few hammers in my garage I could let them have cheap. Maybe $150 a piece if they take the whole lot. If they're interested, have 'em give me a call."

There is little question that Halliburton and KBR will continue in their current roles in Iraq and around the world. Historically, when a vendor is caught cheating in this way, fines are levied by the government. "For now, we just want it to stop," said Dave Stephens, of the Defense Contract Audit Agency, "we'll talk recompense after this is all over. We need them to stay focused."
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