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Contractors see risks in getting security from Afghans

Feb. 23, 2012 - 06:00AM   |  
By SARAH CHACKO   |   Comments
A laborer works on the grounds of a USAID-funded power plant in Tarakhil, Afghanistan, last year. Soon all U.S. contractors in Afghanistan must get security through the Afghan Public Protection Force.
A laborer works on the grounds of a USAID-funded power plant in Tarakhil, Afghanistan, last year. Soon all U.S. contractors in Afghanistan must get security through the Afghan Public Protection Force. (John Moore / Getty Images)

Starting March 20, U.S. contractors doing reconstruction work in Afghanistan will be required to get their security services from a new Afghan government agency.

But contractors are complaining the Afghan agency is charging them excessively high fees for security and putting U.S. contractors at risk by refusing to abide by required federal contracting practices.

As a result, doing business with the new security organization called the Afghan Public Protection Force (APPF) could force contractors to violate U.S. contracting rules and thus become vulnerable to federal suspension and debarment.

The APPF has so far refused to accept standard subcontracting clauses, such as prohibitions on human trafficking, officials with the Professional Services Council trade association say.

The PSC has asked three inspectors generals to offer contractors guidance and identify the risks associated with the required transition. The IGs' involvement now would protect contractors in the future if auditors review the contracts in a few years and determine the prices were not fair and reasonable or the contracts were improper because they lacked the necessary language, said Alan Chvotkin, PSC executive vice president.

"When they write their reports or ask questions down the road, they can say, ‘We understand fully what the circumstances were'," he said.

The APPF requires advance payment of its daily compensation rate for guards that includes a 20 percent profit in addition to other undisclosed processing fees and other charges, PSC President Stan Soloway said in a Feb. 21 letter to the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) and the inspectors general at the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Companies negotiating security subcontracts with APPF were also recently informed that the base rate for APPF uniforms had increased from $506 to $600 to reflect shipping costs and a 20 percent profit, Soloway said.

APPF is set up as a quasi-governmental organization under the Afghan Ministry of Interior. An assessment of APPF last fall showed that the entity did not have the capabilities to negotiate contracts with customers or support the business operations needed to contract services.

Despite these concerns, USAID has instructed development contractors to issue sole-source subcontracts for security services to the APPF, Soloway said.

However, USAID and the State Department have not issued any written guidance regarding contracts with APPF, PSC officials said. For example, it is unclear how contractors should comply with federal vetting and training requirements when they have little control over APPF guards or little recourse for poor performance.

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