- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Five District technology contracts worth a combined $23 million have been sent to the D.C. Office of Inspector General for review because city contracting officials yesterday said they cannot say for sure whether the District ever got what it paid for.

The D.C. Office of Contracting and Procurement said it forwarded the contracts, which date back to 2000, to the inspector general last week after unsuccessful attempts to obtain affidavits from vendors and city officials saying services were delivered.

Interim Chief Procurement Officer Herbert R. Tillery, who is also deputy mayor for operations, said his office has been unable to “obtain certification from [city] staff or the contractor indicating that services were rendered and paid for …”

Mr. Tillery disclosed his request for an inspector general’s inquiry during testimony yesterday before the D.C. Council Committee on Government Operations, which has been holding a series of hearings into the District’s contracting practices.

“The services were paid for, the question now is whether the services were actually rendered,” said Council member Vincent B. Orange Sr., Ward 5 Democrat and chairman of the government operations panel.

Interim Inspector General Austin A. Andersen said in an interview yesterday that his office is taking action on Mr. Tillery’s request.

“If we get a request from a deputy mayor, we generally interpret that as tantamount to a request from the mayor … and open an audit, inspection or investigation as appropriate,” Mr. Andersen said.

The five technology contracts were among a group of 36 city contracts that came under scrutiny yesterday. Most were singled out because they did not comply with a city contracting law requiring D.C. Council approval for all contracts worth at least $1 million.

The contracts involved a wide range of city services, including road paving, housing for the mentally retarded and health services for police officers.

Contracting officials identified the vendors and contract amounts they are asking the inspector general to review as Dunn/Steelcloud Computer Corp. for $3 million; Keane Inc., $5 million; Northrop Grumman Corp., $5 million; L. Robert Kimball & Associates Inc., $8 million and Auctor Corp., $2 million.

Contracting officials said they requested the inspector general’s involvement after two months in which they sought affidavits from vendors as well as D.C. Chief Technology Officer Suzanne Peck indicating that all services on the technology contracts were provided.

Mrs. Peck told Mr. Orange yesterday she could not testify that “every line item” of work was completed on the contracts because she lacked “personal knowledge.” She said that officials who oversaw the work are no longer employed with the District.

Generally, however, she said, “We suspect absolutely no fraud or malfeasance of any kind.”

Robert Orr, director of business development for Auctor Corp., said in a telephone interview yesterday that he wasn’t aware of any attempts to contact Indiana-based Auctor concerning its work automating the District’s child-support payment system.

“We have a contract with D.C., but as far as I know … there are no real problems from our end,” he said.

Mr. Tillery said the contracting office discovered numerous unapproved contracts during an internal review he ordered after taking over the contracting office last year. Since his arrival, more than 20 employees of the contracting office have resigned or been fired, he said.

Of the 36 contracts disclosed yesterday, 11 — worth a total of nearly $30 million — involved agreements with housing providers for the mentally retarded.

D.C. Council member Adrian Fenty, Ward 4 Democrat and chairman of the council’s Committee on Human Services, said he plans to hold a separate hearing on Monday into why those contracts never received council approval.

“I’m very troubled by the nature of these retroactive contracts,” he said. “We’ll work through them, but we need a full hearing.”

Marsha Thompson, interim director of the D.C. Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities Administration, said not approving the contracts could mean the displacement of 368 individuals served by the agency.

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