Senators question possible loss of $135M by Afghan contractor

Sens. Rob Portman and Claire McCaskill last week requested information on the possible loss of nearly $135 million in taxpayer dollars by Jorge Scientific, a U.S. defense contractor conducting counterinsurgency training for the Afghan police forces.

Portman, R-Ohio, and McCaskill, D-Mo., chairman and ranking member of the U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, said the company was awarded a $50 million contract to provide counterinsurgency intelligence experts to mentor and train the Afghan National Security Forces.

An audit revealed possible fraudulent payments and a lack of internal controls that resulted in some $135 million in unsupported costs billed by the company.

McCaskill became concerned about the issue after reading reports that two former Jorge employees drank and abused alcohol in Kabul, had a bar brawl and engaged in parties that repeatedly attracted the attention of Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security. Contractors are not allowed to drink.

Jorge Scientific has been the recipient of nearly $1 billion in U.S. taxpayer-funded contracts.

Portman introduces microbeads legislation

Portman last week introduced a bill that would address plastic microbeads found in common household products and harmful to wildlife and human health. Companies have agreed to phase them out of production.

Portman’s bill would establish a definition of microbeads and set uniform dates for the prohibition of manufacture and sale of products.

Microbeads are tiny synthetic plastic particles used as an abrasive in many personal-care and beauty products, such as facial scrubs, soaps and toothpastes. The beads don’t dissolve, but instead are rinsed down the drain. Lakes Erie and Ontario are disproportionately affected, having the highest concentrations of microbeads.

“Plastic microbeads are devastating to wildlife and human health, and this bill implements a common-sense way to phase them out in a way that’s fair to Ohio companies and keeps them on a level playing field with their competitors,” Portman said.

The bill is coauthored by Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., and cosponsored by Sens. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., and Mark Kirk, R-Ill.

Granholm keynote speaker at Dems’ dinner

Former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm has been tapped to deliver the keynote address next month at the Ohio Democratic Party state dinner.

Granholm, who served two terms as Michigan’s governor from 2003 to 2011, teaches law and public policy as an adjunct faculty member at the University of California-Berkley. She also served one term as Michigan’s attorney general from 1999 to the end of 2002.

The dinner will be at 6 p.m., June 27, at the Greater Columbus Convention Center.

Panel will look at veterans’ health care

House Speaker John Boehner last week tapped David Blom, president and chief executive officer of OhioHealth, to be one of 15 members of a new commission that hopes to devise ideas on improving access to health care for veterans.

The new commission was the product of a $16.3 billion overhaul of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. President Barack Obama will name three members to the panel while the four leaders of the Senate and House — Boehner, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., get to name three members each.

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