A top lawyer for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the State Department’s foreign aid agency, is under investigation for allegedly rigging a bid to ensure that it would be “won by the agency’s retiring chief financial officer.”
According to the Associated Press, Lisa Gomer, USAID’s general counsel, allegedly interfered in a bid to ensure David Ostermeyer, the retiring official, would win it.
In addition, the Justice Department is investigating whether USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah and Deputy Administrator Donald Steinberg tried to interfere in the internal investigation of the matter by the inspector general’s office.
The AP also reported that “one document said Steinberg told inspector general officials that the agency’s top administrator, Shah, asked him to speak with the internal investigators about the review.” Steinberg then reportedly “ripped into the independent watchdog.”
USAID spokesperson Kamyl Bazbaz told The Hill, however, that Steinberg was not under investigation and that USAID is taking very seriously “the independence of the Inspector General and the importance of the Agency’s cooperation with Inspector General audits and investigations.”
“It is standard procedure for the Inspector General to brief with senior leadership of the Agency regarding its ongoing investigations and audits,” Bazbaz said. “The Investigation was conducted unimpeded and we cooperated with the investigation. The Agency supports the important role that the USAID Inspector General plays to combat waste, fraud and abuse by conducting investigations and audits of Agency operations.”
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), who chairs the House Oversight Committee, called the interference “disturbing and outrageous.”
“This interference by the top USAID official and his deputy in a corruption investigation of other top officials is disturbing and outrageous,” Issa said. “Inspectors general can only be effective if they are independent. Efforts to intimidate or chastise an inspector general for investigating agency corruption and submitting findings to the Justice Department are simply incompatible with honest government.”