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U.S. House panel probes IRS contracts with Signet Computers

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A Republican lawmaker who heads an investigatory panel is demanding documents from the U.S. Treasury department in a probe of whether an IRS employee steered contracts worth half a billion dollars to Signet Computers, according to a letter released on Thursday.

Representative Darrell Issa, chairman of the oversight and government reform panel in the Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives, sought the documents in a letter to Acting Treasury Secretary Neal Wolin dated Wednesday.

The letter describes committee interviews with witnesses alleging that Signet's owner had a personal relationship with a top contracting official at the Internal Revenue Service, and that the official inappropriately helped the company get federal contracts.

"If true, these allegations raise serious questions about the integrity of the acquisition process at the IRS and how the agency is using taxpayer money," Issa, whose committee has subpoena power, wrote in the letter.

The Internal Revenue Service is part of the Treasury Department, which had no comment on the matter. Phone numbers listed on the website of Signet Computers were disconnected. Signet has offices in Leesburg, Virginia and Washington, D.C., and provides computer network design and support and Internet security, according to its website.

According to the letter, a whistleblower in 2012 contacted the Treasury Department's inspector general for tax administration, an internal agency watchdog, with evidence that showed contracts were steered to Signet improperly.

The name of the IRS official, whose title was director of IT procurement, is blacked out in the letter. Signet's owner is named as Braulio Castillo in the letter.

Issa is requesting documents from Treasury related to communication between the two officials, among other information, by March 6.

(Reporting By Kim Dixon and Patrick Temple-West; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

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