Occasional blogging, mostly of the long-form variety.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Portrait of a Whistleblower

It’s been easy enough to lose track of the story of Bunny Greenhouse, the government employee who blew the whistle on Halliburton’s no-bid contract for reconstruction work in Iraq. Even though she was demoted and transferred, there’s been little coverage in the media, and most shamefully, no investigation or follow-up from the supervising Inspector General, let alone Congress.

Everyone agrees that Bunny Greenhouse is a stickler for detail. She may not be the easiest woman to work with. However, after reading this portrait by Neely Tucker in The Washington Post, I find it hard to question her integrity. Her personal history strongly suggests this is a woman of character. No one has ever accused her of being stupid (she has three master’s degrees), and few people (other than Sherron Watkins at Enron) become whistleblowers to improve their job security. Yet when it came to the Halliburton deals (technically with their subsidiary KBR), Bunny Greenhouse testified to the Senate Democratic Policy Committee:

"I can unequivocally state that the abuse related to contracts awarded to KBR represents the most blatant and improper contract abuse I have witnessed during the course of my professional career."

The contracts were unorthodox. There has been horrendous overbilling by Halliburton. Greenhouse has been punished, yet her supervisors claim this action is not retribution. Wouldn’t these factors necessitate further inquiry? Regarding Greenhouse’s allegations, and her demotion, the Post reports:

A Corps spokesman declined to address the specifics. Instead, the Corps issued a written statement that says the agency followed the law in its dealings with Halliburton. As for Greenhouse's EEOC complaint, the statement said the agency "takes seriously" its employees' right of privacy, and thus could not comment.

Any further investigation appears to be minimal.

This, from another DPC hearing last month, after Greenhouse was demoted:

Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.): "Ms. Greenhouse, has the Inspector General's Office made any attempt to interview you?"

Greenhouse: "None whatsoever."

Dorgan: "None?"

Greenhouse: "None whatsoever."

Dorgan: "That's unbelievable to me."

I don’t buy the portrayal of Greenhouse by her supervisors as a petty bureaucrat or an incompetent. A more accurate view of her would come from her peers and her subordinates (if they would talk), not just her current bosses, who have every motive to undermine her. The portrait offered by the man who hired her, her former boss, Lt. Gen. Joe Ballard, strongly contrasts any negative accounts. Additionally, the paper trail of past evaluations point to someone who may be demanding but is dedicated... frankly, exactly the sort of person needed to supervise spending of the taxpayer’s money.

My take is that Bunny Greenhouse ran afoul of the ol’ boy network, spoke truth to power, and is now being punished for it. Perhaps that’s not the case. But why has there been no little to follow-up on her case? Why does there remain little to no cost-tracking and accountability for the billions of dollars that continue to be spent in Iraq?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

No good deed ever goes unpunished.