SAN ANTONIO – San Antonio Congressman Joaquin Castro is asking the House and Senate armed services committees for urgent action on Monday after a Reuters report exposed an alleged scheme of falsified maintenance reports at Lackland Air Force Base.
Reuters, working with CBS News, discovered that employees of a United Kingdom-based housing company, Balfour Beatty Communities, faked maintenance records “to show near-perfect performance in making repairs, helping the company earn millions in fees for a job well done.”
Reuters spoke to multiple ex-workers, including Stacy Nelson, the company’s manager for Lackland from 2013 to 2016, who said “she felt pressure to manipulate records to make it appear the company consistently hit maintenance goals.”
“You either make these numbers match so we can get the incentive fees, or you may not have a job tomorrow,” Nelson told Reuters. “We fudged the numbers, and even now it’s not easy to say that. I hate to admit it.”
The company released a statement about the incident Wednesday. A spokesperson said an independent audit is underway and that they instructed Hunton Andrews Kurth LLP, outside counsel, to look into the allegations.
“In addition to the audit work we are undertaking in connection with our Air Force bases, we are conducting a comprehensive review of work order practices at our Army and Navy bases,” the spokesperson said. "In all these matters, we are working directly with our military partners and the relevant government agencies.”
The expose published months after photos of mold in Lackland dorms went viral. Balfour Beatty officials told KSAT Wednesday that the dorms are entirely managed by the Air Force.
The investigative report indicates the scheme occurred at three different bases: Lackland Air Force Base, Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma and Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana. Balfour Beatty officials told Reuters that they have launched an internal investigation into the issue in Oklahoma, but did not specifically address the allegations in San Antonio.
“We know we have to continue to demonstrate progress in order to rebuild confidence in our service, and we are determined to do so,” the statement said.
Reuters also spoke to Roxanne Roellchen, who had issues with mold, bugs and a leaking roof in the house that she moved into with her active-service husband and children in June.
She said she found scorpions hiding among boxes and roaches crawling on the feeding tube of her son, 5, who requires treatment because he’s not growing. “Every day we were in that house, we were risking his health,” she said. Balfour Beatty said it promptly and effectively addressed the family’s concerns and apologized for the inconvenience. The family said it took four weeks for the landlord to find them new lodging. The company, they added, did not submit work orders to remedy the mold and insects; while they waited, the company placed the family in a hotel and then temporary base housing, which also had roaches.Reuters
On Monday, Castro released a statement calling the “corrupt" scheme “a direct affront to our military families.”
“Forging maintenance records in order to take home millions in bonuses is the definition of immoral,” Castro said in the statement. “No family should have to live with the threat of asbestos, mold, or worry whether their home is secure if disaster strikes.”
Castro asked the legislative committees to support reforms in the private military housing industry.
Before photos of the mold at Lackland dorms went viral this summer, officials had said they were not aware of how prevalent the mold was.