A recently hired procurement executive at the Treasury Department is being accused of illegally awarding millions of dollars in contracts to friends while she was a senior official at the Department of Veterans Affairs.
According to the Washington Times, a report first made public Monday by the VA Inspector General “found that Iris Cooper, who ran the VA’s office of acquisition operations, ‘pre-selected’ Ohio-based Tridec Technologies LLC for a contract, then helped break the work into smaller no-bid contracts to ensure the company got the work.”
The allegations are reminiscent of another case unearthed by the IG in September, in which a different VA procurement officer was found to have used her office for private gain in awarding a contract to FedBid, a reverse auction service. (RELATED: Report: Corrupt Veterans Affairs Executive Lied Under Oath, Engaged in Fraud)
The VA IG report asserts that, at Cooper’s direction, “initial and subsequent contracts were improperly awarded on a sole-source basis to Tridec… because of Ms. Cooper’s personal relationship with Mr. David London, who was a part owner of Tridec, and Mr. Robert S. Fritschie, the son of Tridec owner, Mr. Robert A. Fritschie.”
“Although the first contract was not awarded until October 20, 2009,” the IG claims that emails and other records prove that “the decision to award the sole-source contract to Tridec was made in or before July 2009.” (RELATED: Death and Corruption at the Veterans Administration)
The VA “awarded three sole-source contracts to Tridec, valued at more than $15 million,” since October 2009, and “The value of each award was set at or below the $5 million threshold allowed for a sole-source award,” allowing the contracts to be awarded without bidding.
Moreover, “the first contract was modified to add $5 million in funds, making the total award almost $8 million, well above the $5 million threshold.” (RELATED: Veterans Affairs Keeps Buying Bogus and Counterfeit Medical Equipment)
To make matters worse, the report claims that, “Based on her statements to the OIG Special Agents in comparison to documentation relating to this procurement, we concluded that Ms. Cooper engaged in a lack of candor when interviewed.”
Spokesman Adam Hodge told the Times that the Treasury Department “was not aware of the report when Ms. Cooper was hired and it has no bearing on her standing as an employee of the Department.”
However, Florida Republican Rep. Jeff Miller, who serves as Chairman of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, called the allegations “deeply troubling,” adding that, ““We’ve already been in touch with Treasury Department officials, who assured us they would investigate the circumstances surrounding the department’s hiring of Iris Cooper.”
An attorney for Cooper, meanwhile, issued a statement contesting the IG’s findings, saying that she “worked diligently to serve the best interests of our veterans,” and always followed the law.
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