VA pressed on conference spending
WASHINGTON — A year after federal investigators disclosed $762,000 in wasteful spending at Department of Veterans Affairs' training conferences, the agency has put into place about half of the recommended changes designed to keep spending in line.
In particular, investigators are calling for an employee manual that spells out what spending practices are not allowed at conferences.
The conferences, held in July and August 2011, have been the subject of congressional hearings and scathing critiques from lawmakers. A hearing on Wednesday before a House oversight committee gave lawmakers the opportunity to review progress.
The inspector general had found that conference planners spent nearly $100,000 on promotional items such as hand sanitizers and pedometers, and they spent nearly $50,000 on a video parody of the movie “Patton.”
Some of those workers who chose the conference site in Orlando, Fla., inappropriately received perks such as spa treatments, concert tickets and limousine and helicopter rides while they reviewed potential conference locations. That money could have been used to improve services for veterans, lawmakers said.
“Our veterans were abused, and I used that word carefully, but I use it deliberately” said Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., the chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Affairs.
Gina Farrissee, who began her job as the VA's assistant secretary for human resources last month, told lawmakers that the VA conducted reviews using outside consultants to find out what went wrong and has issued new policies to ensure greater oversight. For example, any conference costing more than $500,000 is generally not allowed and may only occur if the VA secretary grants a waiver. She also noted a ban on spending for entertainers or promotional gifts.
Farrissee said the department is tasking senior executives with responsibility for ensuring that each conference meets the department's training and spending criteria.
Richard Griffin, deputy inspector general for the department, said the VA's response to the conference criticism was aggressive, thorough and addressed a chief shortcoming in that “nobody was in charge” of the Orlando conferences.
Griffin said the employee manual, scheduled to be released in December, was an important recommendation that remains unfilled.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Foreign policy expert: Obama administration should create Syria safe areas
- Self-driving vehicles closer to getting green light as feds ease stance
- Video of white Chicago patrolman fatally firing on fleeing black youth sparks demonstrations
- GOP readies next assault on health care law
- House Republicans call for refugee limits in spending bill
- Email address gives FBI lead on record theft of user IDs, passwords
- Fla. turkey seeks divine intervention
- Traffic deaths rise sharply in United States
- Poll: 4 in 10 know someone who has been addicted to prescription painkillers
- Human error, technical malfunction blamed in attack on Afghan hospital
- In a first, private company’s rocket returns safely to Earth