The Washington Post

Interference with bid-rigging probe alleged at USAID


USAID Deputy Administrator Donald Steinberg (Richard Nyberg/AP)

Documents from an inspector general’s probe last June allege that a top-level USAID official interfered with an investigation of possible contract rigging by the foreign-aid agency’s general counsel.

The alleged obstruction occurred while the inspector general’s office was investigating whether former USAID general counsel Lisa Gomer had worked with former chief financial officer David Ostermeyer to design a contract that would go to Ostermeyer after he retired.

The inspector general’s office said in an internal memo that Deputy Administrator Donald Steinberg, who ranks No. 2 at the U.S. Agency for International Development, told investigators that their efforts to gather information were “inappropriate” and that the case should have been taken to the front office before going to the Justice Department.

“When people are slapping badges down, reading rights and monitoring who is calling who as it relates to career people, it is a mistake,” the document quotes Steinberg saying to investigators.

USAID said none of its top officials interfered with the inspector general’s efforts.

“The investigation was conducted unimpeded and we cooperated with the investigation,” said spokesman Kamyl Bazbaz. “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.”

The case involving Gomer is ongoing, said a source familiar with the investigation, who asked not to be named. But David Schertler, an attorney representing Gomer, said the Justice Department has dropped the matter.

“We understand that there was an internal inspector general investigation, but we’ve been told by the Department of Justice that they’ve declined to pursue any kind of criminal investigation,” Schertler said.

A Justice spokeswoman said she had no information on the status of the case.

The department authorized USAID’s inspector general to release the memos to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which requested the information.

The documents do not specify whether the investigations are ongoing, but observers said Justice’s willingness to release the material suggests that the agency does not intend to pursue criminal investigations.

The USAID spokesman also said that the agency terminated the solicitation Gomer had allegedly tailor-made for Ostermeyer when the agency learned of it.

USAID reassigned Gomer to a new post on Aug. 20, and she resigned from USAID on Jan. 13, Bazbaz said. The former general counsel’s last day with the agency will be Feb. 9, the spokesman said.

Ostermeyer is a 34-year USAID veteran who was named chief financial officer in 2007, according to his profile on the agency’s Web site. He retired from the agency Jan. 3. He declined to comment on the investigation.

Josh Hicks covers Maryland politics and government. He previously anchored the Post’s Federal Eye blog, focusing on federal accountability and workforce issues.

The Freddie Gray case

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!

Campaign 2016 Email Updates

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!
Comments
Show Comments
The Republicans debated Saturday night. The New Hampshire primary is Feb. 9. Get caught up on the race.
Highlights from Saturday's GOP debate
Except for an eminent domain attack from Bush, Trump largely avoided strikes from other candidates.

Christie went after Rubio for never having been a chief executive and for relying on talking points.

Carson tried to answer a question on Obamacare by lamenting that he hadn't been asked an earlier question about North Korea.
The GOP debate in 3 minutes
Listen
Play Video
Quoted
We have all donors in the audience. And the reason they're booing me? I don't want their money!
Donald Trump, after the debate crowd at St. Anselm's College booed him for telling Jeb Bush to be "quiet."
Listen
Play Video
New Hampshire polling averages
Donald Trump holds a commanding lead in the next state to vote, but Marco Rubio has recently seen a jump in his support, according to polls.
New Hampshire polling averages
A victory in New Hampshire revitalized Hillary Clinton's demoralized campaign in 2008. But this time, she's trailing Bernie Sanders, from neighboring Vermont. She's planning to head Sunday to Flint, Mich., where a cost-saving decision led to poisonous levels of lead in the water of the poor, heavily black, rust-belt city. 
55% 38%
Upcoming debates
Feb. 11: Democratic debate

on PBS, in Wisconsin

Feb 13: GOP debate

on CBS News, in South Carolina

Feb. 25: GOP debate

on CNN, in Houston, Texas

Campaign 2016
State of the race

To keep reading, please enter your email address.

You’ll also receive from The Washington Post:
  • A free 6-week digital subscription
  • Our daily newsletter in your inbox

Please enter a valid email address

I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Please indicate agreement.

Thank you.

Check your inbox. We’ve sent an email explaining how to set up an account and activate your free digital subscription.