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Rep. Issa alleges waste on video, travel for VA conferences

Aug. 20, 2012 - 05:31PM   |  
By STEPHEN LOSEY   |   Comments
Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., is seeking documents related to two VA conferences that the VA Office of the Inspector General is now investigating.
Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., is seeking documents related to two VA conferences that the VA Office of the Inspector General is now investigating. (Alex Wong / Getty Images)

The Veterans Affairs Department allegedly spent $52,000 to produce an 18-minute video parodying the movie “Patton” as part of two training conferences now being investigated for wasteful spending.

House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., sent VA Secretary Eric Shinseki a letter Aug. 13 asking for the parody video, and for contracts and documents related to the planning and execution of the July and August 2011 human resources training conferences. Issa gave VA until Aug. 27 to provide the video and documents.

In his letter, Issa said the video used a paid actor to satirize the iconic opening scene of “Patton,” in which World War II Gen. George Patton delivered a rousing speech to his troops in front of a massive American flag.

“Although the VA has videographers and editors on staff, the conference planners engaged a contractor to produce the video,” Issa wrote.

Issa also said VA spent $84,000 on promotional items such as pens, highlighters, hand sanitizers and USB flash drives for the conference.

VA’s Office of Inspector General is now investigating the 2011 conferences in Orlando, Fla., and earlier this month briefed lawmakers on its preliminary findings. It expects to release its report by the end of September.

Issa said the VA conferences “bear eerie similarities to the now infamous 2010 General Services Administration conference in Las Vegas.” But Issa noted that the $5 million tab for VA’s two conferences was “significantly more than the 2010 GSA conference.”

He also said that, as with the GSA scandal, waste occurred in the VA conferences’ pre-planning stage. He said the IG identified at least seven employees from VA’s Washington office who traveled to Nashville, Dallas and Orlando to scout possible locations. But Issa said VA had employees in each of those cities who could have scouted locations and avoided the travel costs involved with flying Washington employees around the country.

Issa also said some VA employees may have received improper gifts — such as concert tickets and rides in helicopters and a limousine — from hotels that were being considered as possible conference locations.

VA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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