Federal CIO Takes Leave of Absence
The fallout from Thursday's arrests of a District of Columbia IT security official and contractor quickly raised questions about the fate of Vivek Kundra, the new federal CIO who until recently ran the office now mired in bribery allegations.
Until his appointment by President Barack Obama as CIO less than two weeks ago, Kundra was chief technology officer for the District of Columbia. But Thursday, Kundra's former ninth-floor office in a downtown government building was a crime scene. A police officer was stationed in the office lobby while investigators searched through records.
A White House official, speaking on background, confirmed Friday that Kundra took a leave of absence from his new CIO job shortly after federal investigators arrested two men in the D.C. government office on bribery charges. The official would not elaborate on the reasons for the leave; there were no indications Thursday that Kundra was involved in any wrongdoing.
Kundra's decision could slow his plan to create a "revolution" in the federal government's use of technology.
On the face of it, the allegations have the appearance of a simple financial crime: bribery. Two men have been charged: Yusuf Acar, who currently is the District of Columbia's acting chief security, earning US$127,468 a year, and Sushil Bansal, CEO and founder of Advanced Integrated Technologies Corp. (AITC), a Washington-based outsourcing vendor that has won a number of contracts from the district's IT department.
Federal law enforcement officials allege that the two men created "ghost" workers -- people who existed only on time sheets -- and overbilled the District for software licenses.
Acar and Bansal were arraigned in U.S. District Court yesterday. Bansal was released on the condition that he remain in the area, but Acar was locked up for a long list of reasons spelled out by the U.S. District Attorney Tom Hibarger. He pointed to Acar's connections to Turkey and to alleged efforts to create bank accounts outside the U.S.
In addition, Hibarger told the judge that officials didn't know whether Acar still had access to the District's IT systems. Hibarger's concern, and Acar's role as a acting chief security officer, raised questions about the security of the systems and whether they've been compromised as part of the bribery scheme.
Asked whether the District government is looking into the security of its IT systems in the wake of the arrests, a spokesman for the D.C. mayor's office deferred comment, for now, to the FBI and U.S. attorney office, which are leading the investigation. A spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney's office wouldn't comment on any IT-related aspects of the case.