VA says using contracts for private medical care would be too burdensome

The Veterans Affairs Department spends billions of dollars on private medical care without contracts and, although the process does not comply with acquisition regulations, using contracts would be too burdensome, said a VA official during congressional testimony.

The FAR“VA acknowledges that our long-standing procurement processes for care in the community need improvement,” said Edward Murray, VA’s acting secretary for management at a June 1 House Veterans Affairs subcommittee on oversight and investigations hearing.

The VA is expected to spend about $10 billion on healthcare outside of the VA health system in fiscal 2015, said Murray. Lawmakers were concerned by the amount of money spent on private healthcare – VA cites distance to health centers and a shortage of clinicians as barriers to care – and the lack of contracts.

“If the atom bomb can be built and wars conducted under the acquisition regulations, surely VA can deliver patient care under them as well,” Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.).

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VA official: Agency spent $5 billion on medical supplies without written contracts

The Veterans Affairs Department has procured billions of dollars worth of drugs, medical devices and other supplies without using written contracts or full and open competition.

VA Deputy Assistant Secretary for Acquisition and Logistics Jan Frye told the House Veterans Affairs subcommittee on oversight and investigations May 14 that agency leaders have wasted $5 billion on illegal medical procurements and made a “mockery” of federal acquisition laws.

VA sealFrye said VA spent about $1.2 billion on prosthetics bought using purchase cards without any written contracts. That happened over a year-and-a-half period concluding at the the end of last year.

This is all “due to our inexcusable failure to acquire a substantial quantity of goods and services in accordance with federal laws and regulations,” Frye said.

The purchase card abuse was particularly egregious to lawmakers on the subcommittee questioning Frye.

Edward Murray, VA’s acting assistant secretary for management, said the agency has about 25,000 purchase cards in circulation and they were used to make about $3.7 billion in purchases in 2014.

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Inspectors general feud over VA official’s alleged contract steering

Two federal watchdogs are feuding over the legitimacy of a scathing report last year on questionable contracts at the Department of Veterans Affairs, causing a rare rift between government accountability offices.

Treasury Department Inspector General Eric Thorson issued a letter to House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller (R-Fla.) last week contesting findings of misconduct by former VA procurement officer Iris Cooper, now a top contracting official with Treasury.

A report last year from VA Inspector General Richard Griffin accused Cooper of steering $15 million in contracts to a friend’s company and ensuring that the deals would be non-competitive. It also alleged that she showed a “lack of candor” with investigators.

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AF lifts suspension of reverse auctioneer FedBid

Just a few weeks after the Air Force suspended contracts with FedBid, a Vienna, Va. reverse-auction company and requested the company’s debarment, the service lifted the suspension after reaching an administrative agreement, according to a Feb. 20, 2015 Air Force document.

The suspension stems from a Veterans Affairs Department inspector general report that said Susan Taylor, Veterans Health Administration deputy procurement officer, pressured staff repeatedly in emails to speed up the acquisition process and pick FedBid for the reverse auction contracts.

The IG report says Taylor, “improperly disclosed non-public VA information to unauthorized persons, misused her position and VA resources for private gain, and engaged in a prohibited personnel practice when she recommended that a subordinate senior executive service employee be removed from SES during her probation period.”

The agreement will end both the suspension and debarment proceedings as long as FedBid “maintains the business honesty and integrity required of a government contractor and that the company operates in strict compliance with all applicable laws, regulations and terms of its governance contracts and subcontracts.”

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GAO’s ‘high-risk list’ now includes IT acquisition

The Government Accountability Office’s High-Risk List, which calls Congress’ attention to problematic, risky or troubled programs, is about to receive two high-profile additions.

Multiple Capitol Hill sources with knowledge of the list confirmed to Nextgov that IT acquisition and operations and veteran health care are being included on the watchdog’s list.

The news is hardly surprising, given the steady stream of criticism and negative headlines those two areas have generated since GAO last updated its biennial High-Risk List in February 2013.

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