Army launches investigation of Fort Gordon housing provider
WASHINGTON, D.C. (WRDW/WAGT) - The Army has launched an investigation into a family housing provider at Fort Gordon that drew fire from Senate investigators.
Rachel Jacobson, assistant secretary of the Army for installations, energy and environment, told members of Congress on Thursday she found a Senate subcommittee’s investigative report “very disturbing, especially concerning conditions at Fort Gordon.”
The report addressed long-running problems with family housing on post – ranging from leaks and mold infestations to collapsed ceilings and general disrepair. At the center was privatized family housing provider Balfour Beatty Communities.
“The day after the report was released, I wrote to Balfour Beatty indicating that I directed an immediate investigation at Fort Gordon to be overseen by the commanding general of the Army Materiel Command,” she told members of the House Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies.
She also said an audit is being performed of Balfour property management records at Fort Gordon, and the Army is suspending any requests for incentive fees.
The incentive fees have been seen as an area ripe for exploitation by housing contractors.
They provide bonuses for the company if it meets certain goals. Balfour, in fact, has admitted manipulating its work order database to make problems appear less severe and more quickly addressed, all in an effort to pump up those incentive payments. In December, the company pleaded guilty and agreed to pay $65 million in connection with the scheme.
“When a privatized housing provider fails to meet its performance obligations, the Army will be aggressive in using all tools available to hold the provider accountable,” Jacobson told members of Congress at Thursday’s hearing.
She said the Army will be assessing whether it can amend contracts to gain leverage over the housing providers.
The contracts are another area of concern. Laying out a complicated business arrangement, they often give companies 50 years of control over the housing they manage, plus a virtually guaranteed source of tenants paying their rent with government allowances.
Jacobson says if it takes legislation to remedy the problem, the Army will work with Congress to make that happen.
Balfour manages about 1,000 houses at Fort Gordon, most of them built in the 1950s and 1960s.
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