Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Pasadena-Based Parson's Poor Projects: UPDATE II

Or the headline might have read. The headline, rather, is "Audit critical of local firm," and Todd Ruiz has the story for the Star-News.

For the second time, the federal watchdog agency overseeing reconstruction in Iraq has cited Parsons for shoddy work on a major project, and now the U.S. Army could decide to bar the giant Pasadena-based firm from further work in the war-torn country.


A recent inspection of the Iraqi Civil Defense Headquarters in Baghdad found leaky pipes dripping wastewater onto exposed electrical wiring and armored "anti-explosive" gates that didn't work, according to the report.

Native Pasadenans may be surprised at this news. Few, according to our very unscientific poll, had any knowledge of what Parsons actually does. As it turns out, the company belongs in the category of mega-development companies like Bechtel. Consider the range of activities that the company is involved in: running airports, deploying communication networks, building bridges, designing medical facilities, engineering roads and highways, planning communities...short of terraforming, it's not clear there's anything Parsons can't do. Of course, one company operating in such diverse fields does make one wonder, "how do they do all this, and how could they do it all well?"

Now, government auditors seem to be answering the latter question by saying, "They're not." The line from company spokeswoman Erin Kuhlman is that the projects in question met standards when they were handed over to Iraqis; if the buildings and gates in question have been poorly maintained, the blame should fall on Iraqi shoulders. Of course, that explanation seems less reasonable in light of earlier complaints about another Parsons product, the BPC.

In January, SIGIR released its review of the Baghdad Police College, a high-profile project Parsons had received a $75 million contract to build.

Inspectors of the college found human waste dripping from ceilings and seeping from walls.

Oh, fecal matter permeating the building? Those Iraqi plumbers must be quite incompetent. Or maybe, just maybe, Erin, Parsons did (excuse the pun) a crappy job.

The war in Iraq isn't an issue within the purview of our humble blog. But the performance of a local company, particularly when they may be bilking taxpayers for subpar work, most certainly is.

UPDATE: One wonders if it's any coincidence that Parsons' "Project Iraq" website is no longer available. Check it out:

Additionally, the link to "US Army Corps of Engineers and USAID Iraq Reconstruction Programs" takes you nowhere. Curious.

UPDATE II: Erin Kuhlman was kind enough to respond quickly:

Parsons' Iraq website was formed so that subcontractors and those interested in working in Iraq could find information easily. Since we're almost done with our work and we are no longer hiring for Iraq, we have pulled the site down. Please don't look for a conspiracy where there is none.

Erin Kuhlman

No conspiracy behind an old website and a single broken link? Well, it was fun for the five minutes it lasted (guess we'll have to rent an X-Files episode tonight to satisfy that desire). Kudos to Ms. Kuhlmann for taking time to respond.


Aaron Proctor said...

Parsons was also responsible for progressive rock group, the Alan Parsons Project.

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