Doan to testify before House oversight committee

Editor's note: This story was updated at 11:40 a.m. March 7, 2007. Please go to Corrections & Clarifications to see what has changed.

Lurita Doan, administrator of the General Services Administration, has been called before a House committee to answer allegations of wrongdoing and misconduct.

Today Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, called Doan to testify March 20 about her business relationship with long-time friend Edie Fraser, owner of the Public Affairs Group. Waxman also wants answers about allegations that Doan used GSA to benefit Republican candidates and about problems with a Sun Microsystems technology contract, according to Waxman’s letter to Doan.

The Washington Post reported Jan. 19 that Doan attempted to give a no-bid contract to Fraser’s company. Doan signed a contract to pay 20,000 to the firm to produce a 24-page report to promote GSA’s use of minority- and woman-owned businesses, according to the article.

GSA terminated the contract last summer after agency lawyers and other officials identified possible regulation-compliance problems, and called the contract a mistake, the article states.

Further investigation by the committee uncovered more problems, which it intends to inspect.

In his letter, Waxman described a nationwide teleconference that took place Jan. 26 at GSA headquarters convened to figure out ways to help Republican political candidates. According to his letter, Doan held the meeting with senior staff and about 40 GSA political appointees to hear from J. Scott Jennings, special assistant to the president and deputy director of political affairs at the White House, and John Horton, GSA’s White House liaison, about national polling data from the November 2006 midterm elections. During the teleconference, some participants suggested blocking House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) from attending the opening of an environmentally efficient courthouse in San Francisco, according to the letter.

Doan also wanted to get Sen. Mel Martinez (R-Fla.), chairman of the Republican National Committee, to attend a courthouse opening in Florida, according to Waxman.

Waxman wrote that GSA’s Office of the Inspector General has referred the matter to the Office of Special Counsel for investigation under the Hatch Act. The law prohibits executive branch officials from engaging in partisan politics while on duty, in official government workspace or with government equipment.

Waxman also contends that Doan intervened on behalf of Sun Microsystems in August 2006 in the middle of a contract renewal dispute with GSA. The contract involved purchase and maintenance of information technology equipment, technology software maintenance, professional services and Sun training courses.

“As a result of your intervention, federal taxpayers could pay millions more for Sun’s products and services than necessary,” Waxman wrote to Doan.

“As GSA administrator with authority over billions [of dollars] in federal contracts, your actions set an example for procurement officials throughout the government,” he wrote. “You should be a model for integrity in contracting.”

"I am delighted to have the opportunity to set the record straight and provide a full and complete record to Congressman Waxman and the committee and refute these scurrilous allegations,” Doan said in a statement. “Ever since I made the decision to restore fiscal discipline to all divisions within GSA, I have had to face a series of personal attacks and charges. I am eager to have the chance to show the progress we have made at GSA to eliminate wasteful spending and restore the agency to a sound financial footing."

Larry Allen, executive vice president of the Coalition for Government Procurement, said he is mystified by the amount of attention the $20,000 terminated contract with the Public Affairs Group has attracted.

The matter is a distraction for both GSA and the committee, he said.

“While there is a proper role for oversight in this arena, I hate to think the current session of Congress is starting off as a witch hunt,” Allen said.

GSA is fighting to bring back customers, especially the Defense Department, and Allen said he not seen a real effect so far on GSA's reputation from these circumstances. However, Allen added that he is not sure about what consequences could ultimately arise.

“No government official is above the law, and everyone must abide by the established procurement rules and regulations,” said Clay Johnson, deputy director for management at the Office of Management and Budget, in January, after the initial media report on Doan. He has made no statement about Doan’s call to testify.

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