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Possible USAID bid rigging probed

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By The Associated Press
Thursday, Jan. 24, 2013, 7:30 p.m.

WASHINGTON — The Justice Department is conducting a criminal investigation into possible contract rigging by the general counsel at the government agency that distributes foreign aid, documents obtained by The Associated Press show.

Memos from the inspector general of the U.S. Agency for International Development also reveal that the IG is investigating whether Deputy Administrator Donald Steinberg tried to interfere with an internal investigation.

Internal inspector general documents said he told the IG's office that it should not have investigated the alleged rigging, nor should the matter have been referred to the Justice Department.

Inspectors general are watchdogs within a federal agency and are supposed to operate independently.

The original investigation focused on whether Lisa Gomer, USAID general counsel, may have “wired” a contract last May so the winner of the solicitation would be the agency's retiring chief financial officer, David Ostermeyer.

The contract bidding for a “senior government-to-government assistance adviser” was canceled after questions were raised.

“If the solicitation was in fact designed for Ostermeyer to win, Ms. Gomer and USAID may have violated various federal laws, the Federal Acquisition Regulation and government ethics policies,” according to a letter from two House members to USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah in November.

The letter was written by Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, and Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, chairman of the panel's national security subcommittee.

On Wednesday, the inspector general's office wrote Issa's committee saying the Justice Department authorized the inspector general to give the committee documents related to Steinberg's potential interference.

The Justice Department said it would continue to investigate the original allegations. All of the documents were described as “law enforcement sensitive.”

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