The inspector-general in charge of overseeing the U.S. agency for international development is investigating the actions taken by its leaders to apparently delete social media accounts, according to people familiar with the matter.
According to these people, the apparent investigation is directed, among others, to John Barsa, the acting deputy administrator of the foreign aid agency, and his close adviser Bethany Kozma. The focus appears to be on removing social media accounts tied to former senior USAID executives. This could be a violation of the Federal Records Act.
One of the people who recently spoke to the Inspector General's office was asked if a former chief there had direct access to her USAID social media account or if it was managed by the Public Affairs Bureau. In this case, the account was managed by the USAID office, not the officer, said the person.
Social media accounts for federal officials are considered federal records by law, and deletion of this type of record could result in fines or up to three years in prison, according to the Congressional Research Service.
The acting spokesman for USAID told CNBC that the social media accounts had not been deleted and said they had been archived in what is considered standard practice.
"The agency has not deleted any social media accounts – only unpublished and processed for archiving as requested by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA)," said the agency's spokesman, Pooja Jhunjhunwala, on Thursday. "This is the standard protocol for shutting down USAID executives' social media accounts when they vacate their positions."
Jhunjhunwala declined to comment and referred any questions about a possible investigation to the office of the Inspector General of USAID, which either did not confirm or deny the existence of an investigation.
"The USAID office of the inspector general can neither confirm nor deny the existence of an investigation," Andrew Schmidt, director of congressional and public affairs for the office of the inspector general, told CNBC.
Any possible investigation into current USAID leadership could continue until 2021 as President Donald Trump completes his term in office. Ann Calvaresi Barr, USAID's Independent Inspector General, was ratified by the Senate in 2015 after she was nominated for office by then-President Barack Obama.
Her office oversees allegations against USAID, the Millennium Challenge Corporation, the United States African Development Foundation, the Inter-American Foundation, and the US Development Finance Corporation. The Inspector General's website shows examples of over a dozen investigations conducted in 2018.
Bonnie Glick, who was named USAID's second-highest officer by Trump, left the agency last month. Barsa reportedly took her place as deputy administrator after his senior title as acting administrator expired under the Federal Law on Job Reform.
After Glick left the agency, it appears that their USAID accounts on Twitter and Instagram have been deleted, potentially violating the Law on Records. The front page of Glick's USAID Twitter account said it no longer exists. Her federal Instagram account has a similar message.
Former USAID administrator Mark Green's federal Twitter account appears to have also been deleted. He left the agency earlier this year.
USAID is the federal agency that oversees foreign aid and has a budget of over $ 19 billion. The agency, under Barsa's leadership, has been under scrutiny since he took office. Critics pointed to a group of Trump loyalists who appear to have influence within the organization.
CNBC reported this summer that morale for many of the agency's employees has hit a new low, in part due to the actions of the Trump loyalist and then USAID White House liaison officer William Maloney.
Maloney has rejoined the agency after temporarily moving to the U.S. global media agency, according to people familiar with the matter. He is now helping with matters relating to Freedom of Information Act requests.
Pete Marocco, another controversial Trump administration employee, is also back with the agency, according to Foreign Policy magazine.