Federal CIO Back on the Job as D.C. Probe Widens

White House and Technology

Vivek Kundra is back on the job as the federal government’s CIO following a leave of absence stemming from corruption charges surrounding his former employees.

Kundra stepped aside last week after the FBI raided the office of the CTO of Washington, D.C., and arrested Yusuf Acar, a security official who oversaw contractor agreements. They also arrested Sushil Bansal, CEO of Advanced Integrated Technologies Corp., a firm that has won contracts from agencies in Washington.

From the beginning, federal authorities said that Kundra, as D.C.’s former CTO, was never a suspect in the probe. But the move to put him on leave was widely seen as an effort to tamp down media scrutiny as the White House ensured that he would not be implicated as the investigation continued.

President Obama tapped Kundra for the newly created position of federal CIO earlier this month. Kundra will be responsible for managing the government’s entire technology portfolio and budget, and for overseeing its enterprise architecture.

As CTO of Washington, Kundra established a reputation for transparency and innovation in overseeing government IT operations. He switched the Washington government to Google’s Gmail and implemented Google Apps, and is a firm believer in Software-as-a-Service and cloud computing as a strategy to cut IT costs.

Kundra is also credited with implementing the D.C. Data Catalog, an online storehouse where citizens can access government information ranging from building permits to police arrest reports.

But as the federal investigation has revealed, that level of transparency did not filter through all levels of the Washington CTO office.

Acar, the son of a Turkish diplomat, is accused of a massive embezzlement scheme, where he allegedly falsified invoices and timesheets to bilk the city for millions of dollars.

Citing anonymous sources, The Examiner of Washington yesterday reported that a culture of corruption pervaded the CTO’s office, where staffers working under Acar routinely turned a blind eye toward trumped up billing reports submitted by contractors.

Channing Phillips, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s office, told InternetNews.com that he could not comment on other suspects in the corruption scheme “for obvious reasons,” but added that “the investigation is ongoing.”

Acar was in court yesterday for a detention hearing, where he was ordered held pending further proceeding.

He’s next due in court April 22 for a preliminary hearing. Bansal’s preliminary hearing is scheduled for April 21, Phillips said.

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