Tom Leney runs an office at the Veterans Affairs Department charged with ensuring that billions of dollars in set-aside contracts make it into the hands of small, veteran-owned businesses.
But while serving as the executive director for VA’s Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization, Leney also oversees the VA’s Center for Veterans Enterprise.
While Leney has said he’s confident he can do both jobs, the arrangement has raised concerns with a key House Republican.
Rep. Richard Hanna, R-N.Y., chairman of the House Small Business subcommittee on contracting and workforce, pressed Leney at an oversight hearing last week. The lawmaker said the Small Business Act specifically states the director of VA’s Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization Office should not have any other jobs or titles.
Hanna also asked Leney whether he could both oversee contractor verification and advocate for small veteran-owned businesses at the same time.
“Yes, sir, I can do both,” Leney replied. He went on to explain that VA has established a “gold standard” for contractor verification and that 5,400 small veteran-owned businesses have received more than $3.8 billion in contracts.
“I personally don’t have any issue with a conflict of interest because we’re helping vets,” Leney said.
Hanna pressed further: “Can you show us where in the statute it’s permitted?” At that point, Leney said he’d get back to the congressman.
A VA spokeswoman, Josephine Schuda, declined to comment to Federal Times on Wednesday but said VA does plan to respond formally to lawmakers.