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Opinion

Local Editorial: Shady contractors keep getting D.C. contracts

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Opinion,DC,Local Editorial

District officials are suing the city's former Medicaid provider for allegedly diverting $17 million to other companies owned by former majority shareholder Jeffrey E. Thompson, Mayor Vincent Gray's most generous campaign donor. Thompson is also under federal investigation for allegedly running an illegal $653,000 "shadow campaign" on Gray's behalf.

But nobody is looking into other allegations involving Thompson that were made back in 2008 by Eric Payne, former head of contracts for Chief Financial Officer Natwar Gandhi. Payne was fired for refusing to rebid the city's lottery contract at the insistence of D.C. Councilman Jim Graham. Payne's version of events has been confirmed by three independent reports, while Graham was reprimanded for interfering with the lottery contract and a Metro land deal while he was Metro board chairman.

While Thompson was allegedly pocketing millions from the Medicaid contract, his accounting firm, Thompson, Cobb, Bazilio and Associates, was paid $998,000 to conduct an unusual "independent verification and validation" of the OCFO's System of Accounting and Reporting shortly after that contract was awarded. SOAR was used to manage the city's $10 billion budget.

Since Thompson's contract was just shy of the million-dollar threshold that would have triggered an automatic council review, that review never happened even though the last time an IV&V was issued it was for just $150,000 to look at the city's Integrated Tax System, a much older accounting system that allowed Office of Tax and Revenue employee Harriette Walters to steal $50 million right under Gandhi's nose.

Despite this history, Thompson's IV&V contract, which had been modified to increase its value, was inexplicably kept in draft form by Gandhi before it was canceled when the public found out that Thompson was involved. SOAR was hurriedly replaced by CIBER without proper testing for bugs. Not surprisingly, it failed, costing taxpayers millions.

More evidence of potential fraud in contracts awarded to Entigence Corp., a technology company based in Great Falls, was reported to Robert Andary, then head of the OCFO's Office of Integrity and Oversight, and D.C. Inspector General Charles Willoughby, but they never followed up. Entigence was the same company caught overbilling in an audit by the General Services Administration, which ordered it to repay the District $60,494.

How did such questionable contractors make it through the procurement process in the first place? And where is Council Finance Committee Chairman Jack Evans, who wants to be mayor but can't even manage proper oversight of the OCFO?

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