Correction to This Article
A Feb. 17 article about U.S. General Services Administration Administrator Lurita Alexis Doan referred to the House committee chaired by Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.) by its previous name: the House Government Reform Committee. Waxman renamed the panel the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform after he became chairman in January.

GSA Defends Administrator in Hill Inquiry

By Scott Higham and Robert O'Harrow Jr.
Washington Post Staff Writers
Saturday, February 17, 2007

The U.S. General Services Administration has responded to a congressional inquiry by saying its chief, Lurita Alexis Doan, did nothing improper last summer when she tried to arrange for a study by a company run by a woman with whom she had a "close professional relationship."

In a Feb. 2 response to Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.), the agency said Doan was trying to promote diversity when she signed a "service order" for the $20,000 project. That July 25 document was intended to authorize a company, Diversity Best Practices, run by Edie Fraser, to write a 24-page report and analysis concerning the GSA's use of businesses owned by minorities or women.

At the time, GSA contracts worth more than $2,500 had to be competitively bid. The proposed project was terminated in August because it "did not meet government contract requirements," the agency said in its six-page response.

In the response, GSA Associate Administrator Kevin Messner rejected "the implication that her intentions were improper" and said the project was stopped before any money changed hands.

"A procedural mistake was made, discovered and corrected," Messner wrote. "In an initial attempt as new Administrator to champion the cause of small minority, women, and disabled veteran-owned businesses, the Administrator recognized and took responsibility for the mistake."

Waxman, chairman of the House Government Reform Committee, which oversees the GSA, sent a letter to the agency raising questions about the events following a Jan. 19 story in The Washington Post. Waxman asked the agency to produce e-mails and other documents relating to the no-bid order and disputes between Doan and her inspector general's office.

A spokeswoman for Waxman said the committee is reviewing the GSA's response and declined to comment further.

Shortly after she became GSA administrator in May, Doan clashed with the agency's inspector general over budget matters. Last year, the inspector general's office launched its own investigation of the attempted project with Diversity Best Practices.

Doan told The Post in a taped interview last month that she took over the agency in a time of falling revenue and morale. In its response to Waxman, the GSA noted that Doan wanted the inspector general's office to rely on its $43 million budget appropriated by Congress and no longer depend on an extra $5 million that came from other GSA divisions. That additional money had been mandated by the White House Office of Management and Budget to help bolster contract audits in 2003.

"What started out as yesterday's benefit to help them out with their budget has turned into today's entitlement," Doan said in the interview.

The GSA's response said that the inspector general refused to identify any areas for possible cuts in its budget, despite an agency-wide push by Doan to reduce spending. Instead, the inspector general's office "demanded a substantial increase in spending" in its budget, according to the response. The $5 million in extra funding is included in the 2008 budget submitted by President Bush, along with an increase of about $4 million for the inspector general's overall budget.

In September, the inspector general's office notified Doan and Fraser of its investigation into the circumstances surrounding the $20,000 no-bid project, issuing subpoenas for e-mails and other documents.

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