US military owner puts families at risk even after fraud plea, Senate probe finds

A bird flies near the United States Capitol in Washington, U.S., March 17, 2022. REUTERS/Emily Elconin

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April 26 (Reuters) – Balfour Beatty Communities, one of the largest private landlords in the U.S. military, continues to endanger the health of service members and their families, even after pleading guilty last year to defrauding the U.S. government and being fined $65 million, a Senate investigation released on Tuesday found.

During their eight-month investigation, Senate investigators said they found evidence of environmental hazards in two military housing communities, including mold, faulty gas furnaces, leaking roofs and asbestos issues. , according to the report released by the US Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations.

Senate staff also said they discovered inaccuracies in documentation of military housing maintenance by Balfour Beatty, such as previous ones identified from 2013 to 2019 in a Justice Department case that led to the company pleading guilty. of defrauding the US government last December.

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At the bases examined in the congressional investigation — Army Fort Gordon in Georgia and Sheppard Air Force Base in Texas — Balfour Beatty’s housing management practices continued to “endanger the health and safety of families.” military,” the report said.

On Monday, Balfour Beatty said in a statement that the company had not yet seen the Senate report and was not aware of any recent improper practices. The company has adopted a new incentive fee compliance program and new mold prevention procedures.

“The company always responds promptly to maintenance requests,” the statement said.

In 2019, Reuters described how some Balfour Beatty employees forged maintenance documents at Air Force bases to help the company qualify for lucrative incentive payouts. Service members were exposed to asbestos, vermin, mold and raw sewage.

Read the Reuters investigation here

The Reuters reports sparked an Air Force and Justice Department investigation.

The subcommittee’s findings were released ahead of a hearing scheduled for Tuesday, “Abuse of Military Families in Privatized Housing,” at which senators including Jon Ossoff, a Georgia Democrat who chairs the subcommittee , plan to interview military personnel and interview corporate executives, including Balfour. Beatty Communities President Rick Taylor.

Service members are expected to describe their experiences in the Balfour Beatty accommodation and the health issues they believe have been triggered by mold and other hazards. The subcommittee is to call Balfour executives to testify under oath, according to a list of hearing witnesses.

The subcommittee said its investigation was based on visits to military bases and 11,000 pages of documents, including work order data and internal company communications, a dozen interviews with families of military and interviews with 11 current and former Balfour Beatty employees. The company operates 43,000 homes at 55 Army, Navy and Air Force installations across the United States, according to the report.

Balfour Beatty Communities is a unit of British infrastructure conglomerate Balfour Beatty Plc (BALF.L). It is one of many large housing corporations that serve as landlords on US military bases under a decades-old housing privatization program.

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Reporting by Joshua Schneyer and MB Pell. Editing by Ronnie Greene

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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