VA Limits Purchasing Authority Amid Probe of Pricey Conferences

August 14, 2012

Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki has rescinded the purchasing authority of employees in the departmental division under investigation for two conferences that cost $5 million and may have involved inappropriate gifts. Shinseki also has set up a 90-day independent review of Veteran Affairs Department training policies, VA announced.

In a statement released after news broke Monday that human resources employees at conferences in Florida in July and August 2011 may have accepted thousands of dollars’ worth of gifts that included alcohol, concert tickets and spa visits, the department also said it is conducting new ethics training for all personnel involved with the planning and execution of conferences and recertification of contract specialists.

VA said it is committed to reducing conference and overall travel costs and it will continue to ensure taxpayer money is used for training that will enable employees to best support veterans. “While the inspector general has stated that the conferences were for legitimate training purposes, that would not excuse the misconduct or poor judgment that is alleged of even a few individuals,” the department said in a statement on the Florida events.

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