GAO Report Cites @StateDept’s Obstruction in Ukraine Security Funds Review

 

Via GAO:

We also question actions regarding funds appropriated to State for security assistance to Ukraine. In a series of apportionments in August of 2019, OMB withheld from obligation some foreign military financing (FMF) funds for a period of six days. These actions may have delayed the obligation of $26.5 million in FMF funds. See OMB Response, at 3. An additional $141.5 million in FMF funds may have been withheld while a congressional notification was considered by OMB
[…]
Letter from General Counsel, GAO, to Secretary of State and Acting Legal Adviser, State (Nov. 25, 2019). State provided us with limited information.
[…]
As a result, we will renew our request for specific information from State and OMB regarding the potential impoundment of FMF funds in order to determine whether the Administration’s actions amount to a withholding subject to the ICA, and if so, whether that withholding was proper. We will continue to pursue this matter.

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US Embassy Finland: Thinnest OIG Report Reveals Dysfunctional Relationship b/w Political Ambassador and DCM

 

The previous State/OIG Inspection Report of the US Embassy in Helsinki (PDF) is dated September 2011, 40 pages long, includes 22 recommendations and 38 informal recommendations. The newly released OIG Inspection Report of Embassy Helsinki at nine pages, including a list of four recommendations is probably the thinnest report we’ve ever read (PDF). The report notes that “The Ambassador and the DCM used their access to the senior levels of the Finnish Government to the benefit of the embassy’s foreign policy goals and objectives.” The report’s discussion on fopo goals and objectives occupied a third of a single page and we must admit, we’re not any wiser after reading it.
The Embassy Helsinki report dated December 2019 found four things:
    • Embassy leadership used their ready access to the senior-most levels of the Government of Finland to the benefit of U.S. foreign policy goals and objectives.
    • The Ambassador and the Deputy Chief of Mission did not manage conflict between them in an appropriate manner, which resulted in a breakdown of trust and communication that complicated the chain of command and contributed to a stressful work environment for Embassy Helsinki staff.
    • Lack of teamwork and communication between Consular Section leadership and staff had a negative effect on productivity and morale.
    • The embassy lacked policies for some information management support services.
The chief of mission is Ambassador Robert Pence , a political ambassador who arrived in May 2018, the DCM is identified as senior FSO Donna Welton who arrived in August 2016. Post’s new DCM is listed as Deputy Chief of Mission Ian Campbell.
The “longest” part of the report is on Executive Direction.

The Chief of Mission was a first-time, non-career Ambassador who arrived in May 2018. The Ambassador was the founder and Chairman of the Board of a commercial real estate development company. The Deputy Chief of Mission (DCM) was a career Senior Foreign Service officer who arrived in August 2016. A first-time DCM, she served as Chargé d’Affaires (Chargé) from January 2017 until the arrival of the current Ambassador in May 2018. She previously was detailed to the Department of Defense as the acting Director for Southeast Asia in the Office of the Secretary of Defense (Policy). During the inspection, the DCM was in the process of transferring to her onward assignment and was scheduled to depart Helsinki on June 1, 2019.

OIG found that neither the Ambassador nor the DCM fully modeled the Department of State’s (Department) leadership and management principles outlined in 3 Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM) 1214. Embassy staff told OIG that, initially, the two leaders worked reasonably well together. However, about 9 months into the Ambassador’s tenure, their working relationship deteriorated. In separate discussions with the Ambassador and the DCM, OIG noted that there was profound disagreement between the two about what led to the breakdown. OIG received information about various issues that contributed to the poor relationship, but ultimately concluded that neither the Ambassador nor the DCM managed the conflict in an appropriate manner, as called for in 3 FAM 1214b(9). According to embassy staff interviewed by OIG, the conflict led to a breakdown of trust and communication between the Ambassador and DCM that complicated the chain of command and decision-making. The conflict also contributed to creating a stressful work environment for embassy staff. For example, because of the dysfunctional relationship between the Ambassador and DCM, staff stated that it was not always apparent to whom they should report and who was making decisions on particular issues. Senior staff members described themselves as “caught in the middle.”

OIG discussed with the DCM her role in the conflict and, related to one particular issue, advised her that, even though she had been serving as the Chargé and was in command at the embassy in the Ambassador’s absence, it would have been prudent for her to have consulted with the Ambassador before signing off on what she acknowledged to be an important and potentially controversial action. At the time of the inspection, she agreed. OIG concluded that the DCM’s approach on this issue contributed to the troubled working relationship.

In discussions with the Ambassador about the conflict, he told OIG that, with the DCM departing in a few weeks and a new DCM scheduled to arrive at the end of June 2019, he was confident that employee morale would improve. However, based on OIG’s interviews with U.S. direct hire employees and LE staff, OIG advised the Ambassador that elements of his leadership and management style also contributed to the stressful workplace environment. OIG encouraged the Ambassador to:

      • Meet regularly, substantively, and face-to-face with individual Department section and other agency heads to provide performance feedback and to determine how the Front Office could assist each section and agency to achieve the embassy’s goals.
      • Document his general instructions to all staff regarding the issues he expected to come to him for approval and how he wanted the information formatted and provided to him.
      • “Walk the halls” to observe and interact with the various sections so that he could better understand the embassy’s functions and operations. • Meet regularly with the leaders of the LE Staff Committee to understand and address the unique concerns of the LE staff.
      • Solicit formal feedback on embassy-wide performance and morale to obtain information to formulate specific actions to address employee concerns.

OIG also provided the Ambassador with Department tools to help chiefs of mission lead their embassies. These tools included the Department’s morale survey that is used to solicit feedback from staff and identify issues that are negatively affecting morale.4

 

Watchdogs’ Lawsuit Against Pompeo For Trump-Putin Notes Under Federal Records Act Moves Forward

 

Via American Oversight:

American Oversight and Democracy Forward, a pair of left-leaning watchdog groups, sued Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the State Department, the National Archives and Records Administration, and the archivist of the United States in June over the missing notes. The groups charge that Pompeo violated the Federal Records Act by allowing Trump to reportedly confiscate meeting notes prepared by State Department employees and for failing to preserve them.

In a ruling from the bench on Wednesday, Judge Trevor McFadden of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia denied the government’s motion to dismiss the case.

The order by McFadden, a Trump appointee, means that the lawsuit will be allowed to move forward and gives the government until Jan. 10 to say whether Pompeo complied with federal records law or show why he was not obligated to do so. Pompeo will then have until the middle of March to produce the State Department’s record of evidence.

Read more below:

IO’s Kevin Moley Accused of Political Retribution Finally Leaves the Building

 

Friday, November 29 was reportedly IO Assistant Secretary Kevin Moley’s effective date of retirement. Via AP:

A senior State Department official accused of carrying out political retribution against career diplomats deemed insufficiently supportive of President Donald Trump has announced he is stepping down.

In a note sent to colleagues Friday, Kevin Moley said his “long-planned retirement” would take effect on Nov. 29, the date of his 50th wedding anniversary. Moley serves as the assistant secretary of state for International Organization Affairs.

“You have been great colleagues,” he wrote. “Keep up the fight.”

His four-sentence note made no mention of the controversy surrounding him and his former senior adviser Marie Stull.

As of this writing, Moley is no longer listed as IO’s assistant secretary but his bio is still up. on state.gov.  Two of the top bureau officials including the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, Jonathan Moore and  DAS Joseph Manso are career FSOs, a third one is a career Civil Service Nerissa Cook, and the fourth, Kathy Wright joined the Department in 2018 following her tenure in the Office of the Majority Leader in the United States Senate as the Policy Advisor for Nominations.

Related posts:

Related items:

Why State/OIG Should Look Into Diplomatic Security’s Mina Chang Headache

 

NBC News did a follow up report on the Mina Change story it broke that lead to the resignation of the deputy assistant secretary of state at the Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations. Excerpt:

To secure her job at the State Department in April, Chang leveraged social connections to senior officials who could help open the doors to the administration, including Brian Bulatao, a close friend and deputy to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo; a State Department official and former defense contractor who she succeeded as deputy assistant secretary, Pete Marocco; and a congressional staffer for key GOP lawmaker Rep. Michael McCaul of Texas, multiple sources said. Marocco endorsed her for the job and McCaul wrote her a recommendation letter.
[…]
By the time Rep. McCaul issued the recommendation letter, Chang’s nomination was moving ahead thanks to her own contacts in the administration, said a spokesperson for the congressman, Kaylin Minton.
[..]
Chang lists just $12,000 in income before she took the State Department job and listed no salary from her charity. According to papers from her divorce case in 2011, she was due to receive nearly $1,400 a month in child support and $500 in alimony per month for a year from her ex-husband, a real estate developer. She lived in an affluent neighborhood in Dallas in a high-end apartment building, former colleagues and acquaintances said.

The updated NBC News piece also notes that “The State Department and its Diplomatic Security Service, which helps vet appointees, did not respond to requests for comment.”
Oh, dang!
State and DSS are probably hoping that this story will just go away now that she had submitted her resignation. But there is something in this story that is troubling.  If it was this easy for her to get this position despite the now revealed holes in her resume,  how many more are there in Foggy Bottom who were hired under similar circumstances? And how exactly did Diplomatic Security “missed” um …  a few things that reporters were able to easily dig up? Is this a case of Diplomatic Security “missing” a few things or a case of the security bureau being “responsive” to the 7th Floor?
Perhaps more importantly, if it was this easy to get around these “holes” and get a deputy assistant secretary position (which typically requires years and years of experience for career appointees), just how hard could it be for foreign intel services to do the same?
Now, we’re not suggesting that Diplomatic Security investigates itself on how this individual got through its security clearance process,  or see if the bureau has systemic holes in that process. We think State/OIG or a congressional panel with oversight authority should look into it.

 

Related posts:
State/CSO DAS Mina Chang Resigns After NBC News Asked About Newly Discovered False Claims;
Dear @StateDept, How Many More Mina Changs Do You Have?

@StateDept Releases First Ukraine-Related Documents Under FOIA

 

The State Department is about to get inundated once more with FOIA requests.  Anyone anticipating an “FOIA surge” this time around? You may download the documents here, the first set in a court-ordered document production via American Oversight.
The November 1 court order from the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruled that the State Department must search for and produce by November 22, 2019 records from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and counselor Ulrich Brechbuhl containing any readouts or summaries of President Trump’s July call with the President of Ukraine.
We’ve looked through a hundred pages of these newly released documents, and while the most notable are the telephone calls between Mr. Giuliani and the secretary of state (two calls referred to in the Hale deposition), there does not appear to be any documents specific to readouts and summaries of the July 25 call.
So, how soon do you think before we’ll see those documents?

 

SFRC Ranking Member Menendez Calls For OSC Hatch Act Review Into Pompeo’s Kansas Travel

 

 

On October 29, the Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), sent a letter to the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC), requesting a review to determine whether Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has violated the Hatch Act, a federal law passed in 1939, which limits certain political activities of federal employees. According to OSC, the law’s purposes are “to ensure that federal programs are administered in a nonpartisan fashion, to protect federal employees from political coercion in the workplace, and to ensure that federal employees are advanced based on merit and not based on political affiliation.”​​​​ ​​

I write to request an immediate review and assessment of the Secretary of State’s compliance with the Hatch Act, 5 U.S.C. §§ 7321-7326.
[..]
Since March 2019, the Secretary has taken three official trips to Kansas, apparently at the expense of the Department of State. During the latest trip, from October 24 to 25, 2019, the Secretary visited the Wichita State University Tech National Center for Aviation Training, participated in a workforce development roundtable, visited Textron Aviation Longitude and Latitude Production, and met with students from Wichita State University.  

In an interview, he refused to discuss matters related to Ukraine, insisting he was “here today to talk about workforce development. I came here today to talk about the great things that are going on here in Kansas.” The events in Kansas were aimed largely at promoting the President’s “Pledge to American Workers,” which has no discernible relation to the Department of State. According to The Wall Street Journal, he also “discussed the U.S. Senate race in Kansas” with Charles Koch, the head of Koch Industries, and former top contributor to his political campaigns, as well as backer of Pompeo’s prior business.  Textron Inc., the parent company of Textron Aviation, was also a major contributor to then-Congressman Pompeo’s political campaigns. 

For months, public reports have persisted that the Secretary was considering running for U.S. Senate in Kansas.  Many in Kansas perceive his appearances in the state to be a de facto campaign effort.  Indeed, an October 25, 2019 Kansas City Star editorial titled “Mike Pompeo, either quit and run for U.S. Senate in Kansas or focus on your day job,” seems to indicate his actions are already being construed as evidence of a possible candidacy by members of the press and the public in Kansas.  And following his trip, the Department of State’s official twitter handle posted a workforce and Kansas-centric video montage of the Secretary’s visit, which appears to have no nexus to the Department’s official work.    

Secretary Pompeo is not any federal employee. Rather, he is one of the most prominent members of the President’s cabinet. He appears frequently on TV and for interviews, and, as is true for many Secretaries of State, is known and recognized by the American public. Thus, it is even more crucial that he and the Department maintain a clear line between his actions as a federal employee and steward of the U.S. government, and any efforts that could be perceived as political in nature or laying the groundwork for potential campaign activity. I therefore ask that you review his travel and his interactions in Kansas closely, and determine whether any violations have occurred or additional guidance to the Department or the Secretary may be warranted.

The full letter is available to read here.

U.S. Embassy Maseru: A Small Post That Works Better Than Foggy Bottom’s 7th Floor

 

State/OIG recently released its review of the US Embassy in Maseru, Lesotho. Post is headed by Ambassador Rebecca Gonzales with Daniel Katz as deputy chief of mission. The full report is available here (PDF). Excerpt below.

Post Overview

The Kingdom of Lesotho is a small, mountainous country slightly smaller than the state of Maryland and completely surrounded by the country of South Africa. In 2019, an estimated 51 percent of Lesotho’s population of almost 2 million were under the age of 25. More than half of the country’s population lives below the poverty line, and its HIV/AIDS prevalence rate is the second highest in the world. Human trafficking is also a significant issue, as Lesotho serves as a source and a destination for trafficking in both adults and children. Approximately three-fourths of Lesotho’s citizens live in rural areas and engage in animal herding and subsistence agriculture.

Staffing

The FY 2019 authorized staffing levels for Embassy Maseru included 32 U.S. direct-hire positions, 3 eligible family members, and 91 locally employed (LE) staff members. Additionally, the Peace Corps had 93 volunteers serving in Lesotho. Other U.S. Government agencies represented in the embassy were the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the Department of Health and Human Services’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Department of Defense, and MCC.

Front Office and Leadership/Management Principles

The Ambassador, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, arrived in Lesotho in January 2018. She previously served as the Chief of Staff for the Assistant Secretary for Administration and, prior to that, as the Deputy Executive Director of the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs. The Deputy Chief of Mission (DCM), also a career member of the Foreign Service, arrived in Maseru in October 2017. His prior assignment was the Mission Deputy at Embassy Koror, Palau. OIG found that, overall, the Ambassador and the DCM led the embassy in a collegial manner and worked together effectively. The Ambassador, a management officer, provided the DCM with guidance on management operations, while the DCM, a political officer, advised the Ambassador on political issues. For example, the Ambassador worked with the DCM to resolve an LE staff tax withholding issue, described in more detail below, and the DCM helped the Ambassador strategize on how best to engage the Government of Lesotho on political matters. The Ambassador and the DCM had an open-door policy, which the American staff confirmed. The Ambassador held monthly meetings with all agency and section heads, in addition to a weekly Country Team meeting. The DCM attended these meetings and also met weekly with section heads to discuss and resolve outstanding problems.

OIG found the Ambassador demonstrated the Department of State’s (Department) leadership and management principles outlined in 3 Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM) 1214. OIG questionnaires and interviews indicated embassy staff found the Ambassador to be open, honest, caring, and passionate about her work in Lesotho. OIG interviews and surveys showed that she encouraged staff at all levels to bring their ideas, concerns, and questions to her, which led to productively identifying and resolving problems. She actively solicited feedback on issues affecting morale and sought to resolve them. For example, when embassy employees had difficulties crossing the border into South Africa, the Ambassador raised the issue with the Government of Lesotho, and the situation improved.

Embassy employees told OIG the DCM modeled 3 FAM 1214 leadership and management principles that relate to valuing and developing people, as he was skilled in mentoring and committed to subordinates’ professional development. Employees also described the DCM as approachable and collaborative, and they appreciated that he organized embassy community events that included both LE and American staff.

The Front Office Led an Effort to Resolve a Tax Issue for Local Staff

OIG found that the Ambassador and DCM strengthened relationships with both LE staff and the host country by resolving a tax issue involving the LE staff. Based on Department policy, the embassy had not withheld local taxes for the LE staff. Instead, employees were expected to pay their taxes directly to the Lesotho tax authority. However, local employees had not always complied with this requirement, and the Lesotho tax authority eventually began seizing funds from LE staff members’ bank accounts for back taxes. After the LE staff asked the Front Office to help resolve the issue, the Ambassador worked with the Department to allow the embassy to withhold taxes from LE staff pay. She also met with the LE Staff Committee on several occasions to hear their concerns. Furthermore, beginning in June 2018, the DCM, along with the Management Officer, met with the LE Staff Committee at least once every 3 weeks to work through the details of resolving the tax issue. The Front Office also used Country Team meetings and town halls to keep the embassy community apprised of developments. In April 2019, the embassy began withholding local taxes and sending the funds to the host country’s tax authority on behalf of the LE staff.

Spotlight on Success: Crisis Preparedness Fair (Report notes that RSO is Dennis Jones)

In December 2017, the Regional Security Officer organized a Crisis Preparedness Fair as part of a broader crisis management exercise. The Crisis Preparedness Fair was an effort to involve the entire embassy community—especially LE staff and American family members— in emergency planning. Most embassy sections hosted their own emergency preparednessthemed activities. For example, the Public Affairs Section held a question and answer game show, the Information Management Office displayed emergency communication equipment, the Regional Security Office and Health Unit had trauma and medical treatment demonstrations (including CPR), and the Facilities Management Section offered fire extinguisher training. The fair included information for participants to take home. In addition to providing training and exposure to emergency resources and personnel, it gave key external contacts an informal environment in which to meet the embassy staff with whom they would interact in an emergency. The fair was well received within the community, and the Regional Security Officer planned to make it an annual event.

Spotlight on Success: Management Section Instituted a Continuous Process Improvement System to Improve Management Controls (Report notes that MGT is Jacob Rocca)

In 2018, while working on the annual Chief of Mission Management Control Statement of Assurance, the Management Officer instituted a continuous process improvement system that significantly improved the embassy’s ability to track and resolve its internal control deficiencies. The embassy also created a quality coordinator position, currently filled by an eligible family member, to run the tracking system. The system includes all deficiencies identified through the statement of assurance process as well as in OIG questionnaires and recommendations in past OIG reports of other embassies. The quality coordinator tracks the deficiencies, meets regularly with the employees responsible for addressing these concerns and enters into the system updates on the embassy’s progress in resolving the problems. A deficiency is not considered “corrected” until preventative measures are in place to ensure that it does not re-occur. As of April 2019, the embassy had successfully resolved 62 items identified since the process began in December 2018.

 

 

State/OIG Work Plan 2020-2021: Reports of Interest to Look Forward To

State/OIG released its work plan for FY2020-2021. Below are some interesting audits/reviews coming our way in the next couple of years. This is not an exhaustive list. You may view the complete list here.

OBO/US Embassy Mexico City

Audit of the Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations’ Contract Administration for the Design and Construction of the New Embassy Compound Mexico City
The New Embassy Compound (NEC) in Mexico City is being built as part of a larger overhaul of embassy facilities across the globe spurred by the Secure Embassy Construction and Counterterrorism Act of 1999. The new embassy complex will be built on 8 acres and will cost almost $895 million. The main building will be about 515,000 square feet, making it one of the largest embassies owned by the Department. Construction on the project began in February 2018 and is expected to reach substantial completion in April 2022. The objective of this audit is to determine whether the Department has administered the design and construction contract for NEC Mexico City in accordance with Federal acquisition regulations and whether the contractor has fulfilled the contract terms and conditions.

OBO, Consulate Erbil, Embassy Baghdad

Audit of the Bureau of Overseas Building Operations’ Construction of the New Consulate General in Erbil, Iraq
In September 2013, the Department and the head of the Department of Foreign Relations for the Kurdistan Regional Government signed an agreement allocating land for the construction of a new consulate general building and compound in Erbil. In March 2014, the Department issued a pre-solicitation notice for the design and construction of offices, housing, and support facilities. In June 2018, it awarded the contract, valued at $422.5 million, to B.L. Harbert International. The objectives of the audit are to determine 1) whether the Department administered the design and construction contract in accordance with Federal Acquisition Regulation and 2) whether B.L. Harbert fulfilled the contract terms and conditions.

OBO/Administration

Audit of Heritage Assets at Selected Overseas Posts
The Department maintains collections of arts and furnishings, known as heritage assets, that are held for public exhibition, education, and official functions. Items can be donated, loaned, or purchased (using donated or appropriated funds). The Department uses this property to promote national pride and the distinct cultural diversity of American artists, as well as to recognize the historical, architectural, and cultural significance of America’s holdings overseas. Although the Department does not report a value of these assets, one curator said that the value could be $500 million. Many pieces of heritage assets are placed overseas. The Department provides protection and preservation services to maintain all heritage assets. The objective of this audit is to determine whether selected posts protected and preserved heritage assets in accordance with Department requirements and whether the Department administered selected heritage asset programs in accordance with Federal and Department requirements

AQM

Audit of Use of Sole Source Contracts in Overseas Contingency Operations
In the last 3 fiscal years, the Department has used over $1 billion in sole source contracts in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Commission on Wartime Contracting reported that agencies have failed to set and meet goals for competition in Iraq and Afghanistan. In particular, agencies have awarded task orders for excessive durations without adequate competition, failed to set and meet goals for competition, and have repeatedly awarded long-term task orders that were not recompeted when competitive conditions improved and used cost-reimbursable contract types even though simpler, fixed-price contracts could expand the competitive pool. The objectives of the audit are to determine whether (1) acquisition policy was followed in awarding sole source contracts, (2) there were urgent and compelling needs to justify awarding sole source contracts, and (3) the Department is paying more by having sole source contracts than it would pay if contracts were competitively awarded.

Consular Affairs

Audit of IT Security Controls for the Passport Information and Electronic Records System
The Passport Information and Electronic Records System (PIERS) is a CA system housed on the Department’s network. PIERS is a suite of web and desktop applications that is used to manage passport records. These records include personally identifiable information, making the system a potential target for malicious actors, both internal and external. During a prior audit, OIG found control weaknesses—including a general lack of policies, procedures, guidance, and training—relating to the prevention and detection of unauthorized access to passport and applicant information and the subsequent response and disciplinary processes when a potential unauthorized access is substantiated. The objective of this audit is to determine whether the IT security controls that were designed and implemented for PIERS meet Federal and Department standards and are working as intended.

Embassy Baghdad, Embassy Kabul, Bureau of South Central Asian Affairs (SCA), Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs (NEA), M/PRI, DS

Audit of Rightsizing of U.S. Embassies Kabul and Baghdad
The U.S. Missions to Afghanistan and Iraq have undergone significant reconfiguration in recent years. In November 2018, the Department decided to decrease the U.S. footprint in Afghanistan because of the Administration’s shifting priorities; Embassy Kabul subsequently submitted a proposal to reduce embassy personnel by 50 percent. Similarly, in February 2019, the Department directed U.S. Embassy Baghdad to reduce its staffing profile by 30 percent. OIG issued the Audit of U.S. Mission Iraq Staffing Process (AUD-MERO-13-33) in 2013 that found that the Department did not fully consider U.S. priorities in Iraq as set forth in rightsizing frameworks developed by M/PRI and the Government Accountability Office. OIG also issued the Audit of the Department’s Implementation of Vital Presence Validation Process (AUD-SI-15-37) in 2015 that found that the Department periodically reviewed the balance between acceptable risk and expected outcomes in high-threat highrisk posts, but that the analysis did not explicitly address the attainability of the posts’ missions or goals. The objective of the audit is to determine whether the Department used established procedures, guidance, and best practices when undertaking its rightsizing approach and whether the approach takes into consideration the alignment of resources invested at these missions with U.S. priorities

Consular Affairs, Embassy Baghdad, Embassy Kabul

Audit of the Special Immigrant Visa Program for Iraq and Afghanistan
The Department’s authority to issue Special Immigrant Visas (SIV) to Afghan nationals falls under Section 602(b) of the Afghan Allies Protection Act of 2009, as amended. The act authorizes the issuances of SIVs to Afghan nationals who worked on behalf of the U.S. Government in Afghanistan or the International Security Assistance Force. The Consolidated Appropriations Act for FY 2019 authorized 4,000 additional visas for Afghan principal applicants. The act also created additional reporting requirements. Similarly, Section 1244 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008 authorized the issuance of up to 5,000 SIVs annually through FY 2013 to Iraqi nationals who were employed by, or on behalf of, the U.S. government in Iraq and who meet certain requirements. The Department’s authority to issue SIVs to Iraqi nationals under the National Defense Authorization Act of 2008 was subsequently extended. The objective of the audit is to determine whether the Department is administering the SIV program in accordance with Federal law.

Selected Posts in Bureau of African Affairs (AF), Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs (EUR), NEA

Audit of Remote Mission Operations in Contingency Environments
For security reasons, the Department operates a number of embassies and consulates outside the borders of the nation. For example, Mission Somalia operates remotely from Kenya, with the Department providing $275 million in foreign assistance to Somalia in FY 2017. Other examples include Mission Libya operating from Tunisia and programs for the stabilization of Syria from Turkey, Jordan, and Kuwait. The objectives of the audit are to determine the extent to which the Department 1) oversees its mission in locations where it does not have a permanent presence, 2) has policies and procedures in place for operating remotely, and 3) has assessed best practices that could be applied to other missions to reduce the number of personnel incountry and reduce the U.S. Government’s footprint.

Special Projects/Department

Evaluation of the Department of State Authorities Act Implementation
In 2016, Congress enacted the Department of State Authorities Act, which requires each Department head to report to OIG within 5 business days any allegations of: (1) waste, fraud, or abuse in a Department program or operation; (2) criminal or serious misconduct on the part of a senior employee; (3) criminal misconduct on the part of any employee; and (4) serious, noncriminal misconduct on the part of any law enforcement officer. The objective of this evaluation will be to review the Department’s compliance with this provision and will examine whether the Department is reporting all the required allegations and whether they are doing so in a timely fashion. OIG will also evaluate whether the Department’s guidance on this requirement is clear and whether the Department has sufficiently notified Department heads of their responsibilities.

 

 

@StateDept Contracting Officer Zaldy N. Sabino Convicted of Bribery and Procurement Fraud

 

This is a follow-up to our post on April 16, 2019 @StateDept Contracting Officer Faces 17-Count Indictment For Bribery and Procurement Fraud.  On October 4, 2019, the Justice Department announced the conviction of State Department Contracting officer Zaldy N. Zabino of  13 counts of conspiracy, bribery, honest services wire fraud and making false statements.

State Department Contracting Officer Convicted of Bribery and Procurement Fraud

A contracting officer with the U.S. Department of State was convicted today of conspiracy, bribery, honest services wire fraud and making false statements.

Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney G. Zachary Terwilliger of the Eastern District of Virginia, Special Agent in Charge Marc Meyer of the U.S. Department of State Office of Inspector General and Assistant Director in Charge Timothy R. Slater of the FBI’s Washington Field Office made the announcement.

Zaldy N. Sabino, 60, of Fort Washington, Maryland, was convicted of 13 counts of conspiracy, bribery, honest services wire fraud and making false statements.  Sentencing has been set for Feb. 14, 2020.

Sabino was indicted in April 2019.  According to the indictment, between November 2012 and early 2017, Sabino and the owner of a Turkish construction firm allegedly engaged in a bribery and procurement fraud scheme in which Sabino received at least $239,300 in cash payments from the Turkish owner while Sabino supervised multi-million dollar construction contracts awarded to the Turkish owner’s business partners and while Sabino made over a half million dollars in structured cash deposits into his personal bank accounts.  Sabino allegedly concealed his unlawful relationship by, among other things, making false statements on financial disclosure forms and during his background reinvestigation.

The Department of State’s Office of Inspector General, led by Steve A. Linick, and the FBI’s Washington Field Office investigated the case.  Trial Attorney Edward P. Sullivan of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Jack Hanly of the Eastern District of Virginia prosecuted the case.

An indictment is merely an allegation.  All defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

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