The Defense Department said on Friday an internal investigation showed 12 major arms suppliers charged it $43 million last year to pay for questionable fees to consultants.

The Pentagon said most of the contractors could not adequately explain what services their consultants performed for the money they were paid.The probe, ordered by Defense Secretary Frank Carlucci in July, was a spin-off from a sweeping criminal investigation by the Justice Department into the fees and consultants' roles in designing and selling weapons.

Consulting fees, which the Pentagon said totaled $236.5 million last year, are allowed only for work that directly benefits the military.

The Pentagon said in some cases the money was illegally used to pay for lawsuits, public relations, advertisements and lobbying Congress.