- The Washington Times - Friday, September 10, 2004

The head of the D.C. Office of Contracting and Procurement has resigned under pressure after a nearly four-year tenure marked by multiple investigations into improper procurement and accounting procedures.

City Administrator Robert C. Bobb said yesterday that Chief Procurement Officer Jacques Abadie III had quit, effective Nov. 15. Mr. Bobb said the contracting office in recent months had been the subject of a top-to-bottom review “coincidental to the resignation.”

“He came in yesterday and indicated his desire to leave on the basis of several personal and other issues,” Mr. Bobb said yesterday. “The timing is good for both him and the District.”

Mr. Abadie declined to comment, said Janis Bolt, a spokeswoman for the contracting office.

The Washington Times reported Sept. 3 that the D.C. inspector general issued a report blaming a division of the contracting office for losing more than $1 million in 27 months by selling surplus emergency equipment at “bargain basement” prices.

In the most egregious case, a 1993 surplus fire engine sold at an April 2003 auction for $25, though Internet dealers valued similar models at $125,000.

The contracting office’s Personal Property Division sold 11 fire engines at public auctions for an average price of $284. The city auctioned 38 ambulances for a total of $121,900 — about one-tenth of the $1.2 million the vehicles were valued at by Internet dealers.

Auditors found the city also was losing in excess of $500,000 a year as a result of poor oversight and a lack of internal controls inside the Personal Property Division. The audit said the office, which is responsible for auctioning surplus city property, was costing the city $1.50 for every $1 in property it disposed of.

D.C. Council member Vincent B. Orange Sr., who has frequently criticized Mr. Abadie’s management, said he believed Mr. Abadie was forced to resign.

In a Sept. 7 letter to Mr. Bobb, Mr. Orange said he had recently discovered that the contracting office had inappropriately issued $5 million worth of sole-source contracts under the Homeland Security Grants program.

He also said the contracting office had not reported to the council $6.5 million in cost overruns on a $2.7 million contract involving upgrading the city’s technology.

“I think at the end of the day, we need new leadership and that’s what we have now,” Mr. Orange, Ward 5 Democrat, said in a phone interview.

Mr. Orange, chairman of the council’s Committee on Government Operations, said he plans to hold hearings on the sole-sourced contracts and the cost overruns on Thursday.

Mr. Bobb said Mr. Abadie had brought the sole-source contracts to his attention but that he was unaware of the cost overruns. He denied that Mr. Abadie had been forced to resign.

“We will never fire somebody simply because their head is being called for by the city council or by someone else,” Mr. Bobb said.

During Mr. Abadie’s tenure, city employees misused government-issued credit cards, making hundreds of impermissible purchases between May 2001 through April 2003, according to an audit by the Office of the Chief Financial Officer. The abuse caused the temporary suspension of the credit-card program.

Last year, Mr. Abadie debarred Fort Myer Construction, a D.C.-based road-paving company, for three years after the company pleaded guilty in March 2003 in a scheme to bribe city highway inspectors.

The D.C. Council overturned Mr. Abadie’s ruling last fall and handed the case to the D.C. Debarment and Suspension Panel, which the council had created through special legislation.

Despite its concerns, the panel said the Army’s Fort Myer should be allowed to resume contracting with city government, even though sanctions against the company are pending in Maryland, Virginia and the federal government.

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