Trump to fire State/OIG Steve Linick who is reportedly investigating Pompeo

 

So Friday night, just when folks were getting ready to mute the chaos and the crazies for the weekend, news broke around 8:30 pm EST of another IG firing. This time, it was the removal of State Department Inspector General Steve Linick.  This follows the firing of both ICIG Michael Atkinson and DODIG Glenn Fine in April, and of the HHSIG Christi Grimm in early May.
WaPo reported on May 16 that “A Democratic congressional aide said Linick was looking into Pompeo’s “misuse of a political appointee at the Department to perform personal tasks for himself and Mrs. Pompeo.”
NYT also reported on May 16 that “A White House official, speaking on the condition on anonymity, confirmed on Saturday that Mr. Pompeo had recommended Mr. Linick’s removal and said that Mr. Trump had agreed.”
Wowowow! If true, hang a new poster from the ceiling!
On May 17, NBC News reported that “The State Department inspector general who was removed from his job Friday was looking into whether Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made a staffer walk his dog, pick up his dry cleaning and make dinner reservations for Pompeo and his wife, among other personal errands, according to two congressional officials assigned to different committees.”
(Also see “UberEats With Guns”, Susan Pompeo, and Don’t Forget Sherman)
Neither Sherman nor the new dog, Mercer has been accused of wrong doing, but we might see the dogs as witnesses in Senator Grassley’s congressional hearing as a warning to other dogs who may be thinking of taking walks or going to groomers with folks on the clock.
Trump’s congressional notification of his intent to remove Linick is dated May 15 and is effective in 30 days.  The required 30-day notice was put in by Congress in 2008 so that “it could push back if the proposed removal was to cover up misconduct.”  Given that this would be the fourth IG removal without any consequential push back from Congress (writing a letter with no follow-up action doesn’t count as consequential), don’t be surprise if the federal government  won’t have any IG left by fall.
Say, is it possible that we’ll see State/OIG release the work product that instigated Linick’s removal prior to his departure?
SFRC’s Senator Bob Menendez and HFAC’s Rep. Ellion Engel have now announced a joint investigation into Linick’s dismissal.
State IG Steve Linick has been with the State Department since September 2013. Prior to joining State, he was the Inspector General of the Federal Housing Finance Agency. Two months after moving to State. his old office, FHFA/OIG with the Justice Department and other state and federal entities secured a record $13 billion global settlement with JPMorgan for misleading investors about securities containing toxic mortgages. 
Linick officially started work at the State Department on September 30, 2013.  Folks with short memory may not remember this but on October 1, 2013, the federal government went on shutdown and Mr. Linick’s office was one of the very few offices at the State Department whose employees were put on furlough). He lost 65% of his entire staff during that  furlough. In his almost 7-year tenure as State OIG, he had been the subject of attacks by blue politicians, particularly during the email saga. He has also been accused by red partisans of being part of the “deep state” and being an “Obama holdover” during the Ukraine mess. It is within the realm of possibility that we could soon hear additional attacks to justify this dismissal.
State Department spox told NPR reported Michele Kelemen that “the State Department is happy to announce that Ambassador Stephen J. Akard will now lead the Office of the Inspector General.”
Happy, huh?
Akard, is a former Foreign Service officer who leads the State Department’s Office of Foreign Missions.  He previously worked at the Indiana Economic Development Corporation under then-Gov. Mike Pence. He was originally nominated in 2017 to become director general of the Foreign Service. (see Trump’s Pick For @StateDept Personnel Chief Gets the Ultimate “Stretch” AssignmentTen Ex-Directors General Call on the SFRC to Oppose Stephen Akard’s Confirmation).
Tell us how this is going to end.

 

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Some Dings and Cheers For the Bureau of Counterterrorism in New OIG Report

State/OIG recently released its inspection report of the Bureau of Counterterrorism.

“At the time of the inspection, the bureau’s authorized staffing included 112 Foreign Service and Civil Service positions, augmented by 53 contractor positions and 43 additional personnel and detailees from other U.S. Government agencies. The bureau has 13 offices in addition to the Front Office. Nine offices support policy issues, such as counterterrorism finance, aviation security, collection of biometric information, foreign terrorist fighters, and bilateral and multilateral diplomatic engagement. Two offices carry out operational responsibilities related to the Department of Defense, and one office designs and manages CT-funded assistance programs. Finally, the Office of the Executive Director focuses on bureau administrative requirements and also provides support to the Office of the Special Envoy for Hostage Affairs. The bureau managed $642 million in active foreign assistance program funds that spanned multiple fiscal years, including through annual and multiyear projects involving other Department bureaus and Federal agencies.”

The report says that the CT Coordinator “exhibited decisive leadership” but apparently, CT bureau employees and senior officials from other Department bureaus “told OIG about occasions on which the Coordinator lost his temper in meetings with U.S. Government officials and foreign partners. When OIG spoke with the Coordinator about the issue, he acknowledged the problem and responded positively to OIG’s suggestions for improvement.”
The report notes that “staff in interviews and in responses to OIG questionnaires gave the Coordinator lower marks for adherence to leadership principles found in 3 FAM 1214b(6) and (9) regarding self-awareness and managing conflict.” 
The Bureau concurred with all 11 recommendations and the OIG considered all recommendations resolved.
Summary of OIG Findings:

• The Coordinator for Counterterrorism exhibited decisive leadership, marked by setting clear strategic goals and communicating them effectively to staff. This enabled the Bureau of Counterterrorism to navigate major shifts in its mission since 2016.

• At times, the Coordinator engaged in conduct that negatively affected employee morale and productivity.

• The bureau established effective internal policy coordination and communication processes.

• Employees from other Department of State bureaus and Federal agencies expressed differing opinions about the bureau’s effectiveness in promoting its policy goals in interagency processes.

• The Bureau of Counterterrorism did not provide sufficient policy guidance, training, and administrative support to overseas employees responsible for coordinating and reporting on regional counterterrorism issues.

• Vacancies in 22 percent of the bureau’s Civil Service positions hampered operations.

• The bureau’s Office of the Executive Director did not have systems in place to measure the results of key administrative activities and efficiently communicate with customers. As a result, bureau staff expressed dissatisfaction with the administrative and support services delivered by the office.

• The bureau did not follow Department procedures for software development.

•The lack of information technology contingency plans placed at risk the bureau’s ability to support these functions in the event of an unplanned disruption.

Executive Direction:

Tone at the Top and Standards of Conduct : The Coordinator assumed his position in August 2017. At the time of the inspection, he also served as acting Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights. Prior to joining the Department, the Coordinator was a law professor. He previously served as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy in the Department of Homeland Security and worked on counterterrorism policy and judicial confirmations in the Office of Legal Policy in the Department of Justice. The Principal Deputy Coordinator, a career member of the Senior Executive Service, arrived in 2016, after having previously served as Coordinator for U.S. Assistance to Europe and Eurasia in the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs, among other senior positions in the Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Coordinator Decisively Led Bureau During Major Mission Shifts, but Travel Schedule and Temperament Issues Resulted in Employee Stress: The Coordinator exhibited decisive leadership during a major expansion of the bureau’s counterterrorism efforts. CT employees and others interviewed by OIG described the Coordinator’s operating style as decisive, strategic, and action-oriented — qualities that are consistent with leadership principles in 3 Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM) 1214(2) and (3). The Coordinator demonstrated a command of complex technical and diplomatic policy issues in meetings OIG observed, consistent with responsibilities outlined in 1 FAM 481.1. Since 2016, the bureau had broadened its efforts to counter violent extremism, launched the Counterterrorism Partnerships Fund (CTPF) initiative, 9 assumed responsibility for aspects of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, and took over responsibility for the sensitive policy area of terrorist detentions. OIG concluded the Coordinator took appropriate steps to set and communicate policy priorities for these new responsibilities.

Nonetheless, despite positive comments regarding his decisiveness, staff in interviews and in responses to OIG questionnaires gave the Coordinator lower marks for adherence to leadership principles found in 3 FAM 1214b(6) and (9) regarding self-awareness and managing conflict. Staff described the Coordinator as unaware of the demands his travel schedule placed on employees and said that at times they lacked a clear understanding of the purpose and outcomes of the Coordinator’s travel, which included 21 international trips in FY 2019, of which 1 was to a CTPF focus country.10 Additionally, the Coordinator’s practice of scheduling trips on short notice burdened staff, who had to put regular duties on hold to prepare briefing documents and handle travel logistics. OIG advised the Coordinator to share readouts of the outcomes of his travel with his staff to broaden their understanding of the purposes and results of his trips. Although it is within the Coordinator’s discretion to determine the extent and nature of such readouts, providing at least some information would be consistent with the Department’s leadership principles in 3 FAM 1214(4) and (7) pertaining to communication and collaboration.

Bureau employees and senior officials from other Department bureaus also told OIG about occasions on which the Coordinator lost his temper in meetings with U.S. Government officials and foreign partners. When OIG spoke with the Coordinator about the issue, he acknowledged the problem and responded positively to OIG’s suggestions for improvement. OIG advised the Coordinator to review the Leadership and Management Principles for Department Employees in 3 FAM 1214, which he agreed to do.

The Coordinator delegated many operational and policy tasks to the Principal Deputy Coordinator, with whom he had a productive relationship. In responses to OIG’s questionnaire, bureau staff gave the Principal Deputy Coordinator strong scores on her performance and leadership. In addition, several bureau employees cited her improvements to, and transformation of, the bureau’s budget and program management functions as positive developments for the bureau. Outside observers also noted the Principal Deputy Coordinator’s leadership and support for CT staff as being essential to the bureau’s success at a time of rapid change and significant pressure.

The CT Coordinator is Nathan Sales. The Principal Deputy Coordinator at the time of this review was Alina Romanowski. She was confirmed as U.S. Ambassador to Kuwait in December 2019. The inspection team was headed by Ambassador Joseph Macmanus, former U.S. Ambassador to UNVIE and Executive Secretary of the State Department from 2014-2017.

@StateDept Contracting Officer Zaldy N. Sabino Gets 87 Months in Prison For Bribery and Procurement Fraud

 

This is the conclusion to the court case of a State Department contracting official charged with bribery and procurement fraud (see @StateDept Contracting Officer Zaldy N. Sabino Convicted of Bribery and Procurement Fraud; @StateDept Contracting Officer Faces 17-Count Indictment For Bribery and Procurement Fraud).  On February 14, 2020, USDOJ announced that the former contracting officer Zaldy N. Zabino was sentenced to 87 months imprisonment followed by three years of supervised released.
Via USDOJ:
State Department Contracting Officer Sentenced to Prison for Bribery and Procurement Fraud Scheme=

A contracting officer with the U.S. Department of State was sentenced today to 87 months of imprisonment followed by three years of supervised release after he was convicted of 13 counts 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 sentenced today by U.S. District Judge Liam O’Grady after Sabino’s conviction on Oct. 4, 2019.  In addition to his term of imprisonment, Sabino was ordered to pay a $25,000 fine.

According to the evidence at trial, between November 2012 and early 2017, Sabino and the owner of a Turkish construction firm engaged in a bribery and procurement fraud scheme in which Sabino received at least $521,862.93 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 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.

 

DynCorp Pays $1.5M to Resolve Kickback Allegations in Baghdad, Iraq

 

This is a follow-up to a 2017 case about a former government contractor sentenced to four years in prison for his role in a government contract kickback scheme that caused a loss of more than $3.4 million to the U.S. Department of State.

According to court documents, Wesley Aaron Struble, 49, a U.S. citizen of Batangas, Philippines, engaged in a conspiracy to violate the Anti-Kickback Act in 2011 and 2012 while employed in Iraq as a government contractor. Initially employed by a business identified in court documents as Company B, Struble learned that another business, identified in court documents as Company A, was seeking a lease of real property for use related to a U.S. Department of State contract. Struble knew that Company B was paying approximately $124,000 per month to a third business, identified in court documents as Company C, for a lease of real property. According to court documents, Struble became a manager for Company A, and together with another manager for Company A, engaged in a conspiracy with associates of Company C to make the lease of property available to Company A at an inflated rate of $665,000 per month.

(See That time when a real property lease in Iraq jumped from $124,000/mo to $665,000/mo).
Last month, USDOJ announced that DynCorp Pays $1.5M to Resolve Kickback Allegations:

ALEXANDRIA, Va. – DynCorp International, LLC (DynCorp), located in McLean, has agreed to pay $1.5 million to settle civil fraud allegations involving two former DynCorp officials, Wesley Aaron Struble and Jose Rivera, who solicited and accepted kickbacks from an Iraqi subcontractor in connection with DynCorp’s lease of property for its operations in Baghdad, Iraq on behalf of the U.S. Department of State.

Struble and Rivera previously pleaded guilty in the Eastern District of Virginia to violating the Anti-Kickback Act for their role in soliciting and accepting at least $390,000 in cash kickbacks from the Al-Qarat Company in exchange for influencing DynCorp’s lease of property in Baghdad at a lease amount higher than the previous lease. The lease costs were included with services for international civilian policing that DynCorp billed under a U.S. Department of State contract in 2011 and 2012.

The settlement resolves the alleged liability of DynCorp for violation of civil penalties under the Anti-Kickback Act and the civil False Claims Act arising out of Struble’s and Rivera’s fraudulent conduct while employed by DynCorp.

The resolutions obtained in this matter were the result of a coordinated effort between the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia, the Department of State Office of Inspector General, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The matter was investigated by Assistant U.S. Attorney Christine Roushdy. The civil claims settled by this False Claims Act agreement are allegations only; there has been no determination of civil liability.

The original announcement is available here.

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.

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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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State/OIG Hotline and Resources For Whistleblowers in the Federal Service

 

 

Three Congressional Chairs Statement on State/OIG Linick Briefing