After just one week on the job, President Obama’s new chief technology officer, Vivek Kundra, has taken a leave of absence in the wake of a federal graft and corruption investigation at the District of Columbia’s office of the chief information officer. Kundra, who served as DC’s Chief Information Officer before resigning from his DC post earlier this month to accept the White House offer, has not been implicated in the scandal.
A White House spokesman told the Associated Press Kundra will be on leave until further details of the federal investigation are known. At a March 12 White House press briefing, spokesman Robert Gates called the charges a “serious matter” but declined further comment. “I would just point questions of the investigation to the Justice Department,” Gates said.
When Kundra accepted his White House position March 5, Obama said, “As Chief Information Officer, [Kundra] will play a key role in making sure our government is running in the most secure, open and efficient way possible.”
That, apparently, was not happening in his former office.
After the March 12 FBI raids on Kundra’s former office and the homes of an IT contractor who did considerable business with the city and a top aide of Kundra’s, federal officials arrested Yusuf Acar, the top security official for Kundra, and Sushil Bansal, the president and CEO of AITC (Advanced Integrated Technologies Corp.).
According to the FBI, Acar and Bansal were involved in an elaborate scheme that required concealing their identities in order to steer no-bid contracts to companies they secretly held an interest in. The scam involved doctored work orders, falsified time sheets, bribery and money laundering. In addition, Acar re-directed all office e-mail to himself in order to monitor any possible investigations.
An FBI deposition claims Bansal’s AITC received more than $13 million in revenue from the D.C. government in the past five years. Acar held a secret interest in Circle Networks, which has billed the city for more than $2.2 million since 2004.
The DC technology office is authorized to award non-competitive orders up to $500,000. The office has a $69 million annual budget, employs 300 employees and 50 managers and deals with approximately 300 contractors.
The FBI said Acar would approve work with vendors such as Bansal’s AITC for software and other IT services. The vendor would then order fewer items than approved and bill the city for the larger amount. Bansal and Acar would then split the profits.