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Last Updated: Wednesday, 19 November, 2003, 12:30 GMT
Admiral David Nash
Reconstruction
In the aftermath of the invasion of Iraq, there's the question of how the United States dishes out lucrative contracts to rebuild the place, funded in part by an eighteen billion dollar supplement approved by Congress this month.

Jeremy Paxman spoke to Admiral David Nash who's been given the new job of Head of the Iraq Project Management Office - charged with distributing and overseeing reconstruction contracts.

Jeremy asked him whether he accepted that many people believe that contracts have been awarded to firms favourable to the Bush administration.

ADMIRAL DAVID NASH:
HEAD, IRAQ PROJECT MANAGEMENT OFFICE:

Well, I understand there are lots of opinions. Personally, I don't have that opinion; in fact I've been in Baghdad working 16 hours a day, seven days a week, so I've been isolated from the news. But I understand there is a perception, but I do not hold it.

JEREMY PAXMAN:
When you get a situation where a $7 billion contract to repair the oil fields is awarded to the company, Halliburton, a company previously run by your Vice-President, without a tendering process, that is hardly transparent?

ADMIRAL DAVID NASH:
It's hard for me to make judgments; I think that the people making the decisions at that time were fitting it into the context of the time. So I have not gone back to review it because I've been very busy trying to get organised for our future in this implementation.

JEREMY PAXMAN:
Would you award a contract on that basis?

ADMIRAL DAVID NASH:
I might. It depends on the circumstances. I've about been in the business for 38 years now. What you do depends on the circumstances. I can't make any comment other than often there are things that you need to do to get the job done. I think that at the time, the place, they probably made the right decision, but I'm not going back to review it. I know that many others have. I guess you will have to rely on their research.

JEREMY PAXMAN:
Would you continue in your new role awarding contracts without a bidding process?

ADMIRAL DAVID NASH:
No, we won't. The supplemental, what we've been told by Congress is clear. We have full and open competition, to make sure that all that we do is transparent. We intend to do that.

JEREMY PAXMAN:
Have you decided, as has been reported, that more contracts will go to companies outside the United States?

ADMIRAL DAVID NASH:
Certainly there is a difference between the prime contracts, which is the conversation circling around, then there are the sub contracts. There will be many in all the work that we do and that will be open to others, both Iraqis and others in the world. So we have a big job ahead of us. We will need the full capability, I believe, of the world, but the decision as to who will be the prime contractors is under review. We are being very careful because it's a very, very important decision.

JEREMY PAXMAN:
But as of now, you can only be a prime contractor if you are an American company?

ADMIRAL DAVID NASH:
There is no decision made. We should be able to announce it in a few days as we have gone through the proper review.

JEREMY PAXMAN:
Does it make any difference to you, in awarding the contracts, where the companies from which they come, stood on the question of the legitimacy of the war?

ADMIRAL DAVID NASH:
That is not a question for me, I'm more of a construction stiff, if you will. I implement and I build.

JEREMY PAXMAN:
As a construction stiff, you have no views on the politics of the host countries of those who bid?

ADMIRAL DAVID NASH:
Well, I have worked around the world. I know there are lots of good companies around the world. I have worked in the industry for 38 years and I hold firms around the world in high regard. It's not a decision for me, that's why it's for others to make and we will implement no matter what they say.

JEREMY PAXMAN:
But it's not going to be bonanza time for French companies, is it?

ADMIRAL DAVID NASH:
You know, I don't think so. I don't think there is any decision on any country or any companies yet. So it's being considered at the right levels in the US Government. I'm waiting to see like you are what the answer will be.

JEREMY PAXMAN:
Admiral David Nash, thank you very much.

This transcript was produced from the teletext subtitles that are generated live for Newsnight. It has been checked against the programme as broadcast, however Newsnight can accept no responsibility for any factual inaccuracies. We will be happy to correct serious errors.



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