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Lockheed Unit Given No-Bid UN Contract in Darfur Reneged on Congo Air Bid, Memos Show

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis

UNITED NATIONS, November 26 -- A Lockheed Martin subsidiary awarded a $250 million no-bid UN contract for infrastructure in Darfur had, only earlier this year, been offered the UN's air field services contract in the Congo despite not being the low bidder, and nevertheless reneged on its bid and held out for more money, documents show. About the Darfur contract, member states on the UN's budget committee have asked more than 100 questions, the answers to which will apparently been held confidential. The irregularities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo air field services contract, demonstrated in minutes of a UN Headquarters Committee on Contracts meeting of June 27, 2007 obtained by Inner City Press and placed online here, call into even greater question why the Lockheed subsidiary Pacific Architects & Engineers was presented internally as the only solution in Darfur, to be awarded $250 million for six months with two three-month renewal options. These questions will be pursued.

            In the lead-up to its June 27 meeting, the Headquarters Committee on Contracts was told by the UN's Procurement Division that PAE and a joint venturer, ESKO, had been declared the winner for all Congo-related air field services except those through Entebbe, for $35,813,579. The Entebbe, Uganda portion was awarded to a company called UNHAS, Entebbe Handling Services, for $24 million. Initially, on February 27, "both vendors... accepted their respective portions of the (split) award." Memo, Paragraph 4. But once contracts were drafted, "PAE / ESKO reversed their position and declined to accept the split award." Rather, PAE / ESKO proposed adding more services to their contract, to raise the amount due to over $114 million. Memo, Paragraph 10.

            The UN's Department of Peacekeeping Operations disagreed with PAE / ESKO's argument, and proposed to award their portion to the "next bidder," Australia-based Patrick Defence Logistics - PDL. Strangely, PDL had initially lost out despite submitting a bid, deemed qualified, of $18 million, 50% lower than PAE / ESKO's $36 million bid. Memo, Paragraph 14.

            Given that the lowest qualified bidder than not been selected, the Headquarters Committee on Contracts "queried the price difference between PAE / ESKO and Patrick Defence." The UN's Procurement Services dryly "replied that the difference is substantial. For the three line items proposed to be awarded to Patrick Defense in the amount of USD 18.6 million, the PAE / ESKO price was $33.5." Choosing PAE / ESKO's higher bid was justified, without further explanation, as a "best value exercise." Minutes at Paragraph 3.15.

UN air field services, Lockheed as low bidder (or bidder at all) not shown

News analysis: UN sources, anonymous from fear of retaliation, note the PAE's already-inflated Congo contract became linked with the $250 million the UN was going to award for infrastructure in Darfur. While the latter should, in the normal course, been put out to bid, instead in April 2007, UN peacekeeper's Department of Field Support pushed for PAE to be given the contract "sole source," without bidding. Given the irregularities in the 2007 Congo air field services contract, shown in this document, and previous criticism of PAE's over-changing the UN, it is more and more surprising that the Darfur contract was steered to Lockheed's PAE.

            The questions raised last week in the UN's Fifth Committee will, it now appears, now be publicly answered. In fact, Fifth Committee sources tell of an emerging position that some of the requested documents will not be provided even to the Committee. Whistleblowers note that procurement documents were previously provided, in full, to the General Accounting Office, and for various prosecutions. Wednesday at the UN's noon briefing, three journalists (two beyond this one) requested a formal briefing by UN peacekeeping (ideally, the head of the Department of Field Support, who pushed for the sole source contract). Inner City Press on Monday asked for an update; "we've asked," was the answer. Particularly in light of these new documents, and other developments, the time for disclosure and the promised transparency is now. Instead, some high UN officials' response to these revelations, according to well-placed sources anonymous for fear of retaliation, has been to try to crackdown on whistleblowers or, through the re-accreditation process, on the media which reports on the Lockheed and procurement documents. Developing.

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Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.  Video Analysis here

  Because a number of Inner City Press' UN sources go out of their way to express commitment to serving the poor, and while it should be unnecessary, Inner City Press is compelled to conclude this installment in a necessarily-ongoing series by saluting the stated goals of the UN agencies and many of their staff. Keep those cards, letters and emails coming, and phone calls too, we apologize for any phone tag, but please continue trying, and keep the information flowing.

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