The former employee of a government contractor that supplies interpreters to the U.S. Army who said that more than one quarter of the translators working in Afghanistan had failed language proficiency exams told TPM in an interview that allegations his employer made against him after his story came out last week are untrue.
“They tried to smear me at the very end, and I had nothing to do with any of the problems that they might have said or accused me of,” Paul Funk told TPM in a phone interview from Iraq.
The company — Ohio-based Mission Essential Personnel — had said that Funk “resigned due to financial improprieties in his office.” But Funk said the wrongdoing was committed by a subordinate and that he “didn’t find out until, I would say, after I left.”
Funk is no longer in the translator business, he’s now working for another company as a military analyst, and said he is “trying to win the hearts and minds of the Iraqi citizens.”
He said that the work of translators is essential to the United States mission in Afghanistan and that there could be severe consequences if mistakes were made. Funk says that his sources have told him the issues he brought up are ongoing at the company, but acknowledged he had no firsthand knowledge of that.
Funk said there were still unprepared translators “who are going out there are faking their translation and ruining mission after mission after mission.
He said he hopes that the publicity he has brought to the issue will force reforms at the company.
“Because of national exposure, they’re going to be forced to do their jobs properly, and that is a success for the soldiers,” Funk said.
Though he stands to gain financially if his case is successful, Funk said that the lawsuit is not about him, but rather about getting the company to correct issues which were hurting the U.S. Army’s mission in Afghanistan. He told his family to anticipate a smear campaign.
An investigation into the allegations has been opened by the U.S. Army. Funk’s suit alleges violations of the False Claims Act, which has a strong whistleblower provision which allows those accusing a company of impropriety to claim about 15 to 25 percent of the recovered damages.
The Christian Science Monitor spoke with several former translators who said that Afghan languages are often learned on the job, which can result in “deadly mishaps and misunderstandings in the mission to win hearts and minds.” Funk’s allegations were first reported by ABC.