WASHINGTON – The Pentagon paid Textron Inc.’s Bell Helicopter unit $8,123.50 each for gears that should have cost $445.06, according to a report by the Defense Department’s inspector general.
The bevel gears that were marked up 18-fold were part of $9 million in excess payments by taxpayers cited by the watchdog office.
This is the latest case in which the inspector general said Pentagon agencies allowed contractors to overcharge for parts. For decades, the Defense Department has periodically been the subject of ridicule from lawmakers, and even late night comedians, after reports of inflated prices for items such as a coffee pot and toilet seat.
In the Bell case, the inspector general recommended that the Defense Logistics Agency seek to recoup the excess money and analyze prices to ensure taxpayers aren’t further overcharged. Otherwise, the excess payments may increase by an additional $2.6 million under Bell’s noncompetitive contract, the report found.
“The contracting officer did not sufficiently determine whether prices were fair and reasonable,” according to the July 3 report, signed by Jacqueline Wicecarver, assistant inspector general for acquisition. The report, obtained by Bloomberg News, was labeled “For Official Use Only.”
Bell Helicopter “does not agree with the findings or recommendations,” Andy Woodward, a spokesman for the unit of Providence-based Textron, said in a statement.
“Bell Helicopter has fully complied with all applicable regulations, and continues to adhere to its policy, which ensures that the U.S. Government consistently receives the best price on commercial items acquired for its use,” he said.
The alleged overcharges were incurred on Bell’s 2012 sole-source, $128 million contract to support Navy and Marine Corps H-1 and Army OH-58 Kiowa helicopters. The contract is in place until February 2017.