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Lawmakers urge VA to fire chief of staff over training conference scandal

Oct. 9, 2012 - 02:54PM   |  
By STEPHEN LOSEY   |   Comments
Republican Rep. Jeff Miller, left, and Sen. Richard Burr.
Republican Rep. Jeff Miller, left, and Sen. Richard Burr. (Miller photo by Getty Images)

Two leading Republicans on Friday called for the Veterans Affairs Department to fire its chief of staff for approving two training conferences riddled with waste.

VA Chief of Staff John Gingrich abdicated his responsibilities by “cavalierly” approving a maximum $8 million budget for the human resources conferences last summer, said Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., and Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., in an Oct. 5 letter to VA Secretary Eric Shinseki.

“To say [Gingrich] treated his responsibility casually is an understatement,” the lawmakers said. “No one can conclude that the one-page document Mr. Gingrich signed to approve an $8 million budget … was an exercise of ensuring ‘prudent use and control’ of taxpayer resources. That document is barely a permission slip, let alone a ‘strong business case.’ ”

Miller is chairman of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, and Burr is the ranking Republican on the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee. The House committee posted the letter online Tuesday.

VA’s inspector general on Oct. 1 released a report that concluded the agency spent $6.1 million on the two training conferences and wasted $762,000 on video production, food and beverages, promotional items, audio-visual services and awards given to employees who mismanaged the conferences. The scandal has already brought down former chief human capital officer John Sepulveda, who resigned Sept. 30.

VA said last week that Shinseki told Gingrich his review of the conferences was inadequate and he should have asked more questions before he authorized them.

VA did not respond to a request for comment on the lawmakers’ recommendation.

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