Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Conflict of Interest in Awarding Government Contracts

The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is a small agency of the Department of Agriculture that provides technical assistance to farmers and other private landowners and managers to improve, protect, and conserve natural resources on private lands through a cooperative partnership with state and local agencies.

Mr. Dunkin was a contracting officer for the NRCS office in Little Rock, AR when he, according to the Department of Justice, awarded a contract (perhaps two contracts according to one source) to a company in which his wife had a direct financial interest. It didn't take much to raise suspicion. His wife's company, Young Enterprises, LLC, had the same address as the home where he and his wife lived.

Yesterday, Mr. Dunkin plead guilty to knowingly and wilfully awarding a contract to Young Enterprises, LLC, where multiple records showed that she was a part-owner of the company. When the contract was completed, the Agriculture Department transferred  money into a bank account jointly owned by Dunkin and his wife.

Mr. Dunkin is being charged with "Acts Affecting a Personal Financial Interest, more commonly known as "conflict of interest". When sentenced at a later date, Mr. Dunkin faces up to five years imprisonment, three years of supervised release and a fine up to $250 thousand. The actual sentencing will be significantly less. Regardless, its a sad ending to a career in Government service. Additionally, it will be the end of Government contracts for Young Enterprises LLC.

There is no indication that the work required by the contract was not adequately performed. The case seems to be a simple matter where the contracting officer found a way to enrich himself.

The DoJ Press Release did not specify how the "conflict of interest" was disclosed. Often times these cases are the result of concerns raised by whistleblowers or calls to a hotline.

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