Rep. Jim Gibbons, R-Nev., called Saturday for congressional hearings of Vice President Dick Cheney's former company, calling allegations that it overcharged for fuel in Iraq "an absolute outrage."
Gibbons said he wants the House Armed Services Committee to hold hearings early next year on allegations that Halliburton Co. charged up to $61 million too much for delivering gasoline to Iraqi citizens under a no-bid contract. The company denies overcharging.
"If these allegations which were found in a Pentagon audit of government contracts is true, then it's time for Halliburton to break out its checkbook and refund American taxpayers," Gibbons said.
Gibbons, a committee member, said he's the first Republican member of Congress to call for congressional hearings of the company. His request comes as Democrats demand further investigations.
Gibbons said he's also concerned by news reports that Halliburton may have overcharged an additional $67 million to supply cafeteria services to U.S. soldiers in Iraq.
While he doesn't think Cheney has any involvement in the Halliburton contract, Gibbons said the House committee should examine whether the contract was issued in exchange for campaign contributions.
Democratic presidential candidates said the Pentagon audit demonstrated the Bush administration's commitment to special and corporate interests.
"I think everything is fair game and we have to look at all issues surrounding the contract," Gibbons said. "We have to follow every lead where it leads and let the chips fall where they may.
"I'm sure they're going to look at timing, connections and who made what decision in the Department of Defense on this contract. What we're after is the truth about contracts and how they're monitored and established," he added.
Cheney headed Houston-based Halliburton from 1995 until he became President Bush's running mate in 2000, and other executives from the company gave generously to the Bush campaign.
Gibbons, the only member of Congress to serve in both the Vietnam and Gulf wars, said he thinks Cheney and the administration eventually will be cleared of any suspicion.
"I don't think Dick Cheney had anything to do with these contracts. He's far too smart to do it," Gibbons said. "I don't think you'll find that the contracts were issued in exchange for contributions in this case. I just think it's greedy overreaching by Halliburton."
A Pentagon audit found Halliburton may have overcharged the government by $1.09 a gallon.
Halliburton has received more than $2.2 billion so far under an oil reconstruction contract. The country is providing gasoline and other fuel to Iraqis while the country's oil industry is being rebuilt.
Halliburton also has been paid about $3 billion for supporting the military with cafeterias, mail delivery and other services.
"I am equally outraged over reports that I have seen that have stated that another Pentagon audit found unclean conditions and rotting food in more than one cafeteria serving American personnel," Gibbons said.