Obama appointee takes leave after raid

Yesterday, the FBI raided the offices of Vivek Kundra, Barack Obama’s appointee as Chief Information Officer for his administration, in a bribery sting that netted two arrests, including one of Kundra’s top aides.  Kundra has apparently decided to spend some time with his family, as the White House announced that he would take a leave of absence from the job he just started:

An aide to President Barack Obama is on leave from his White House job after the FBI raided his old District of Columbia government office Thursday, arresting a city employee and a technology consultant on corruption charges, a White House official said.

The charges were lodged against the two men at a federal court hearing as the FBI finished searching the city’s technology office, which was led until recently by Obama’s new computer chief, Vivek Kundra.

Kundra is on leave from his White House job until further details of the case become known, according to a White House official speaking on condition of anonymity because the official did not want to publicly discuss personnel matters.

The Washington Post also reports (oddly, in its Metro section) that the probe involved “ghost workers” and kickbacks for contracts.  While Kundra so far has not been named as a target in the probe, one has to wonder how the man who runs an agency can be ignorant of “ghost workers”:

Federal authorities said the conspiracy, which operated for at least a year, worked like this:

Acar approved work with a vendor, such as Bansal’s AITC, to arrange the purchase of goods such as software. The vendor ordered fewer items but billed the District for a larger amount. Bansal, Acar and others then split the proceeds, FBI officials said.

Acar also approved fraudulent time sheets for nonexistent employees, Sekela wrote. Acar and the others split the proceeds paid by the D.C. government, Sekela alleged.

Authorities traced more than $200,000 in payments last year from Bansal’s firm to a private company, Circle Networks Inc. The firm is co-owned by Acar, even though he is prohibited from having an interest in any company doing business with the city, Sekela wrote. Circle Networks generated about $2.2 million in revenue through D.C. government contracts, the agent wrote.

Again, Kundra himself hasn’t been implicated in wrongdoing, but it does raise the question of exactly what Kundra did as the head of DC’s technology office.  Acar worked as Kundra’s aide, and at best one can say that Acar managed to run this ring right under Kundra’s nose.  Kundra had to approve, explicitly or tacitly, the payroll for the agency, which employed less than 300 people. Any competent chief executive of a firm that size would know how many employees worked for him and how much they cost; in fact, it would be one of the primary issues on their agenda.

And what happened to auditors?  Government agencies are supposed to audit their records to keep them accountable.  Washington DC is accountable directly to Congress and is run out of the federal system.  Presumably, Kundra would work with auditors and the Inspector General to maintain accountability.  Either Kundra dropped the ball here, too, or Congress needs to look into the system to find out what went wrong.

The best we can say about Vivek Kundra in this episode is that he’s incompetent as an executive, which thus far puts him at the same level of accomplishment as the man who hired him to work in the White House.