June 27, 2019 / 1:25 PM / 18 days ago

Sen. Warren seeks investigation of landlord at U.S. Air Force base

NEW YORK, June 27 (Reuters) - U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren is seeking an official inquiry and demanding answers from the Air Force and one of its top housing contractors following a Reuters-CBS News report describing how the company falsified maintenance records to help it secure Defense Department bonuses.

Last week, Reuters and CBS reported how landlord Balfour Beatty Communities kept two sets of maintenance records at Oklahoma’s Tinker Air Force Base. An official set of electronic records, shown to the Air Force, listed prompt responses to maintenance requests. The other, a handwritten log not shared with the military, accurately showed the company consistently took much longer to finish jobs.

The official entries made the company appear responsive to tenant complaints and unsafe conditions, helping it secure millions in “performance incentive fees” for good service it otherwise often would not have qualified for.

Time and again, records show, Air Force housing officials stationed at Tinker warned of falsified records and poor housing. Their attempts to hold Balfour Beatty accountable were often blocked by the Air Force Civil Engineering Center, which is based in Texas and monitors private landlords.

“The Air Force was allowing this to happen, and failing to use its oversight authority to protect residents and taxpayers,” Warren wrote to John Henderson, the Air Force assistant secretary for installations. The Massachusetts senator is running to become the Democratic Party’s nominee for U.S. president in 2020.

Warren asked the Inspector General of the Office of the Secretary of the Air Force to investigate whether any military housing projects used misleading record keeping and what steps the Air Force has taken to prevent the kind of abuses uncovered by Reuters.

Balfour Beatty, a unit of British infrastructure conglomerate Balfour Beatty plc, acknowledged receipt of the letter, but declined further comment.

The inspector general’s office and an Air Force spokesman had no comment prior to publication.

Warren asked Balfour Beatty to share its correspondence and any internal investigations on the matter, and to detail if it plans to refund any incentive fees. (Reported by M.B. Pell in New York. Edited by Ronnie Greene.)

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