In the wake of a scathing inspector general’s report this fall, the House Committee on Veterans Affairs will hold a hearing Wednesday morning seeking more information on the amount of money spent on conferences by the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Rep. Jeff Miller, (R-Fla.), the chairman of the committee, said Tuesday that the VA “has been evasive” in providing Congress with the exact figures despite the committee’s request.
The VA’s top human resources official resigned in connection with a investigation released Oct. 1 by the agency’s office of inspector generalinto more than $6 million spent by the VA on two training conferences in Orlando last year.
The report found that department conference planners allowed up to $762,000 in unauthorized or wasteful spending and accepted gifts including spa treatments and entertainment.
The House committee “will specifically examine the lack of answers and information received from the Department of Veterans Affairs” concerning conference spending over the past four years, according to a statement.
“To be spending large amounts of money on conferences in today’s fiscal climate is irresponsible, and especially in light of the recent IG findings, which estimated that nearly $1 million was wasted by VA employees on frivolous expenditures,” Miller said Tuesday.
The VA has estimated that it spends anywhere from $20 million to $100 million a year on conferences, according to the committee.The committee requested a detailed breakdown of the spending in August.
“When the OIG report was first issued, VA made clear that any misuse of taxpayer dollars is unacceptable and that is why Secretary [Eric] Shinseki took immediate action to implement aggressive new policies that strengthen oversight, improve accountability, and safeguard taxpayer dollars,” the VA said in a statement Tuesday.
“At the secretary’s direction, VA has already put into place a comprehensive plan to revise and strengthen policies and controls on the planning and execution of training conferences as recommended in the final OIG report.”
Following the report, the top Republicans on the House and Senate veterans affairs committees called for the removal of John Gingrich, the Department of Veterans Affairs chief of staff.
Witnesses at Wednesday’s hearing are expected to include deputy VA Secretary W. Scott Gould, the VA’s deputy secretary, and Todd Grams, the chief financial officer.