March 23rd, 2007 04:40 EST
U.S. Soldiers stop corruption at oil refinery
BAYJI — A United States Army captain met with a deputy commander of the Oil Protection Force to talk about security needs for the Bayji Oil Refinery here March 9.
U.S. Army Capt. Kwenton Kuhlman, Company B commander, 1st Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division and overseer of the oil refinery, and Nabhan Mohammed, deputy commander of the OPF in the Bayji refinery discussed corruption and embezzlement problems as well as the relationship between Iraqi Soldiers and OPF workers.
One of the biggest problems the refinery faced were guards being bribed and drivers being extorted, said Hassan Ahmad, an OPF employee.
“We have caught guys pumping extra fuel, short-changing government fuel tankers and a couple of OPF guys taking bribes from oil tankers,” said Kuhlman.
“The Iraqis are very aware of what is going on at the refinery, and they are fed up with it. Fuel is too important to the Iraqi people to have guards not doing their jobs,” said Kuhlman.
“We have to have a culture in the OPF that doesn’t tolerate corruption,” said Kuhlman.
To combat this corruption, Kuhlman introduced two contracts for new anti-corruption equipment which will be installed inside and outside the oil refinery.
“We will make it really hard and really expensive to steal from (the refinery),” said Kuhlman.
The Iraqi Army also did its part to make sure the corruption stops. Lt. Gen. Abdul-Aziz, commander of the 4th Iraqi Army Division, pledged to permanently station an infantry battalion at the refinery to help with security.
The Bayji Oil Refinery is one of the three largest refineries in Iraq, produces more then 75 percent of Iraq’s refined products, and can produce more than 22 million dollars in oil a day.
To help the refinery operate at this level, Mohammed, along with other leaders within the OPF, and the Iraqi Army promised to change the current situation by conducting security operations inside and outside of the refinery to include checking on the distribution pipelines.
While a lot of progress has been made, there is still a lot of work which needs to be done, said Kuhlman
“It is not something we can solve while we are here, but what we are doing will lay a good foundation for the next unit that comes in,” said U.S. Army Sgt. Stephen Truesdale, B Co., 1st Bn., 505th Parachute In. Regt. “This is a system [of corruption] that has been in place for a long time. If we can change the way [the Iraqis] do business, hopefully we can detour it enough to make a lasting dent in the money flow between the corruption, refinery and the insurgency.”
(By Sgt. Joshua R. Ford, Public Affairs Office, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division)