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No-bid contract was on way to pal

General Services' chief is under investigation. She says she thought she was following rules.

January 19, 2007|From the Washington Post

WASHINGTON — The chief of the U.S. General Services Administration attempted to give a no-bid contract to a company founded and operated by a longtime friend, sidestepping federal laws and regulations, according to interviews and documents obtained by the Washington Post.

Administrator Lurita Alexis Doan, a former government contractor appointed by President Bush, personally signed the deal to pay a division of her friend's public relations firm $20,000 for a 24-page report promoting the GSA's use of minority- and woman-owned businesses, the documents show.

The contract was terminated in the summer after GSA lawyers and officials pointed out possible procurement violations, including the failure to adequately justify the no-bid deal or have it reviewed in advance by trained procurement officers, officials said.

The GSA Office of Inspector General has launched an investigation into the episode and briefed Justice Department lawyers, according to sources who said they were not authorized to speak publicly about the ongoing investigation. Officials at the inspector general's office and the Justice Department declined to comment.

In an interview Wednesday, Doan said she believed she was following proper procedures to hire the best firm available to quickly produce a report on diversity practices.

"I made a mistake," Doan said.

"I thought I was moving this along. I was immediately informed that I wasn't necessarily moving it along in the way that was best for it. So at which point they canceled it, life went on, no money exchanged hands, no contract exchanged hands."

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