House Panel Probes $5 Million Cost of Two VA Conferences

Saturday, 25 Aug 2012 10:08 AM

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A second federal agency in a year to be accused of wasting taxpayer at conferences with a House committee finding a long list of questionable expenses from Veterans Affairs Department get-togethers.

In April, Congressional members grilled General Services Administration officials about an $850,000 taxpayer-funded conference in Las Vegas that blew thousands of dollars on things like a mind-reader and "yearbooks" and commemorative coins for the 300 participants. Top officials at the GSA were fired or forced to resign as a result.

Now it seems that could be small potatoes compared to what the House Committee on Veterans Affairs is investigating.

The VA spent a combined $5 million on conferences which included questionable expenses such as nearly $100,000 worth of "coffee break refreshments," $863 on a karaoke night, and $52,000 on a Gen. George Patton-style video, Fox News reported.

For one of the conferences, which was held in Orlando, Fla., participant travel cost $1.2 million and staff travel cost $113,000. A follow-up conference cost an additional $2.4 million and itemized expenses from that have not been released, according to Fox News.

 “As we learn more about these conferences, I am more and more concerned about the clear lack of leadership, accountability, and transparency at VA," Rep. Jeff Miller, the committee chairman, said in a written statement.

"To see that VA employees were treated to tens of thousands of dollars in refreshments, a $300,000 Audio Visual Center and a night of karaoke does not invoke confidence in employees who are entrusted with the nation’s monies for veterans."

"Some of this material should have never been produced and misuse of taxpayer funds is completely unacceptable," added the Florida Republican.

The VA said, "These events took place over a year ago and we have already adopted new rules that reflect our continuing commitment to safeguarding tax dollars."
 


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