Ex-Im worker accused in bilking scheme

A contracting official resigned from the Export-Import Bank last year, after an internal probe found the official guilty of scheming to overcharge the bank more than $19,000 and viewing illicit images during the workday.

Ex-Im Deputy Inspector General Michael McCarthy told House Financial Services Committee leaders this month about the investigation in a letter obtained by The Hill.

McCarthy wrote that an Ex-Im contracting official "engaged in a scheme to overstate the hours" worked in October 2013 in order to "compensate contractor employees for hours not worked."

The scheme resulted in a loss of $19,356 for hours that weren't worked. All the funds have been recovered, according to a bank official. McCarthy did not find evidence that the employee in question received financial gain for the misconduct.

"The timesheets that were submitted to the Ex-Im Bank were implausible on their face," wrote McCarthy, who did not name the employee or the name of contractors in question.

McCarthy wrote that his office referred its findings of the investigation to Department of Justice officials, "which declined prosecution in favor of administrative action."

McCarthy wrote that "during business hours the Ex-Im Bank contracting official regularly visited adult dating sites and viewed explicit images attached to dating profiles."

"The investigation revealed that the contracting official viewed approximately 1,100 images on an Ex-Im Bank computer," McCarthy wrote in the letter.

Ex-Im spokesman Matthew Bevens told The Hill that "Ex-Im Bank has zero tolerance for any employee misconduct, and took appropriate action as soon as these allegations were raised about the employee in question."

He noted it was another bank employee who suspected the misconduct and referred the situation to Ex-Im’s Office of Inspector General.

"Just as is the case in broader society, no organization can prevent every employee from breaking the rules, and this is an example of Ex-Im Bank’s rigorous ethics training and reporting systems working just as they should," Bevens said.

The probe comes as the bank's future is in question. Congress must reauthorize it before June 30, or it shuts down.

Tea Partyers argue that it is little more than corporate welfare and cronyism. But centrist Republicans and Democrats — backed by the business community — say it is needed to sustain U.S. jobs and help businesses make inroads into emerging markets.

Nearly 700 officials from businesses nationwide flocked to Capitol Hill this week to urge lawmakers to reauthorize the bank.

House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) is a top critic of the bank. He hasn't said whether he'll move a bill through his panel, which has jurisdiction on the issue.

There are several proposals being worked on in Congress to reauthorize the bank. Rep. Stephen FincherStephen Lee FincherTrump announces, endorses ambassador to Japan's Tennessee Senate bid Lamar Alexander's exit marks end of an era in evolving Tennessee Tensions on immigration erupt in the House GOP MORE (R-Tenn.) has 57 House GOP members supporting his five-year reauthorization bill that would reform the bank.

Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), the top Democrat on the Financial Services panel, is one of the lead co-sponsors on the Democratic version of a seven-year reauthorization bill that has more than 160 Democratic sponsors.

Sens. Mark KirkMark Steven Kirk10 top Republicans who continue to deny the undeniable GOP senator says he doesn't remember signing 2016 letter urging 'reform' of Ukraine prosecutor's office The 13 Republicans needed to pass gun-control legislation MORE (R-Ill.) and Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinSchumer seeks focus on health care amid impeachment fever The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by USAA — Ex-Ukraine ambassador testifies Trump pushed for her ouster GOP requests update on criminal referrals prompted by 2018 Kavanaugh probe MORE (D-W.Va.) are also working on a reauthorization bill for the upper chamber.

This story was updated at 6:08 p.m.