10 April 2003 | David Arminas
Crown Agents has become the first British company to win a major contract for reconstruction work in Iraq.
The sub-contracting deal is with the US agency International Resources Group (IRG), which is a prime contractor for the US Agency for International Development (Usaid), the American organisation responsible for co-ordinating humanitarian and reconstruction projects. Crown Agents will help with procurement, transport and warehouse management for goods and materials destined for Usaid.
Usaid was heavily criticised last month for saying US firms would get most of the reconstruction contracts, estimated at over £1 billion.
However, it has since noted that it expects half of the work to go to foreign subcontractors.
Don Cook, executive director of Crown Agents, would not say how much the deal was worth, only that it was part of IRG's nearly £5 million contract. Work has already started and will last until June.
Crown Agents, privatised in 1997, works on international government and institutional development projects, providing services from warehousing and logistics to procurement and financial expertise.
The company has worked with US government agencies before, notably in Afghanistan after the recent war there. Nigel Peters, deputy chief executive of the British Consultants and Construction Bureau, said it showed UK firms had a good chance of winning work in Iraq. "They have positioned themselves to know what contracts are available," he said.
German and French companies are sceptical over landing work because their governments opposed force in Iraq and are not part of the allied war effort. "I don't think Usaid is expecting many tenders from French or German companies," added Peters.