House Democrats seek GAO probe of Safavian's activities

Rep. Chris Van Hollen is leading the charge calling for the Government Accountability Office to probe whether David Safavian broke the law or violated any regulations during his 11 months as administrator for the Office of Federal Procurement Policy.

The Maryland Democrat and five other House Democrats signed a letter to GAO Comptroller David Walker, asking him to investigate whether Safavian, who was arrested last week, used his position to influence any contracts.

"We are presuming innocence, but if he was arrested on suspected monkey business when he was at the General Services Administration, then he might just be involved in similar monkey business at OFPP," said a Van Hollen staff member who requested anonymity. "Congressman Van Hollen is concerned about contracting issues from A-76 to small business, and Safavian's arrest is another concern with the system."

GAO does not have to take up the investigation, according to an agency spokesman. Under the rules negotiated with Congress, auditors can decline requests if they overlap with ongoing work or if other work has a higher priority.

GAO decides the priority of investigation requests based on three criteria: first, congressionally mandated investigations; second, requests from senior congressional leaders or committee leaders; and third, those from individual members of Congress.

Van Hollen said Safavian's arrest "rocks the core confidence" of the procurement system, and an investigation would help restore that confidence in part.

"The question is whether Safavian abused his position at OFPP," the Van Hollen staff member said.

The staff member added that while Van Hollen did not think it was realistic to ask any Republicans to sign the letter, the congressman did not want the effort to look like a partisan attack on a Bush administration official.

"We did not ask everyone to sign this letter," the staff member said. "We asked a small number of members who are well-respected and thoughtful, and who do not ask for investigations into everything and everyone."

Jason Miller is an assistant managing editor of Washington Technology's sister publication, Government Computer News.

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