D.C. General Hospital has begun an internal audit of its contracting office following a press report that a former procurement officer is the target of a bribery investigation, Leonard McCants, the hospital's attorney, said yesterday.

According to sources, federal authorities are investigating allegations that Basil Small, a former top contracting official at the city's public hospital, accepted money in return for promising to help a firm obtain a contract.

Small resigned from his $31,969-a-year post as chief of the hospital's procurement branch in December. He could not be reached for comment yesterday. McCants said his resignation "was not related to any investigation, to my knowledge."

Hospital officials said they learned of the federal probe yesterday through a report in The Washington Times and know nothing about its scope or nature. "We haven't been contacted by anyone," said Penelope Anderson, the hospital spokeswoman.

McCants said the hospital wants to conduct its own investigation "to see if, in fact, anything illegal has happened in the hospital."

"We're not really sure yet what we will focus on," Anderson said. "We're going to look at the whole contracting procedures and procurement procedures."

The hospital routinely conducts audits of "all branches that impact financial viability," she said, "but we will make sure that this is a No. 1 priority."

Anderson said Small, whom she described as a longtime employe, was in charge of purchasing supplies and services to meet the hospital's everyday needs, including maintenance and trash removal. The hospital is one of several agencies under Mayor Marion Barry with independent contracting authority.

A source familiar with the investigation said federal investigators are probing allegations that a few months ago Small offered one contractor a contract valued at about $135,00O in return for a kickback and that later he accepted a payment.

McCants said the hospital prides itself on running "one of the better" contracting operations in city government. "We'd had no reason to seriously question it," said Barbara Coker, chief of procurement and contracts, who was Small's superior.