Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.), the chairman of the Veterans Affairs subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, is pressing VA Secretary Bob McDonald to live up to his word and deal with wrongdoers swiftly.
More specifically, Coffman wants to know what steps McDonald will take to address the allegations of procurement fraud, whistleblower retaliation, conflict of interest and lying to investigators the agency’s inspector general highlighted in its recent report about Susan Taylor, the deputy chief procurement officer at the Veterans Health Administration and her dealings with FedBid, a reverse auction vendor.
“Based on investigations by this subcommittee and the VA OIG, it is apparent that Ms. Taylor is the personification of the morally bankrupt and ethically impaired culture that exists within the department,” Coffman wrote in a letter to McDonald on Monday. “You have made numerous statements that wrongdoers within the VA would be held appropriately accountable. This would seem a fitting case to make good on those statements. Astonishingly, the Department of Justice has declined to prosecute Ms. Taylor on at least one of the violations of federal law she was found to have engaged in by the OIG. Despite this unbelievable decision, I urge you to take swift action to hold Ms. Taylor accountable and to protect VA from the duplicitous behavior of its contractors.”
He said the evidence reported by the IG should warrant Taylor’s firing.
Coffman asked McDonald to answer a series of questions by Oct. 17.
What administrative actions have been take, or will be taken, against Ms. Taylor for these pervasive violations?
The OIG Report substantiates that FedBid was actively conspiring to defame an honorable public servant in an attempt to protect a friendly, corrupt bureaucrat and continue pushing a system of contracts that undercut fair competition. When coupling that with FedBid’s engagement in inherently governmental functions, I call up VA to examine whether FedBid remains a “responsible contractor.”
Not only is Coffman asking McDonald to live up to his words, but also take advantage of the new law that gives the VA secretary more authority to deal with senior executives who have acted improperly.
Congress passed and President Barack Obama signed into law on Aug. 7 the Veterans’ Access to Care through Choice, Accountability, and Transparency Act of 2014.
“If you engage in an unethical practice, if you cover up a serious problem, you should be fired. Period,” Obama said during the signing of the Veterans’ Access to Care through Choice, Accountability, and Transparency Act of 2014. “It shouldn’t be that difficult. And if you blow the whistle on an unethical practice, or bring a problem to the attention of higher-ups, you should be thanked. You should be protected for doing the right thing. You shouldn’t be ignored, and you certainly shouldn’t be punished.”
McDonald said during a press conference in September that there are more than 30 personnel actions already in the pipeline as part of the ongoing fallout of the veterans health scandal. But he’s not focused just on firing people, but creating sustainable accountability.
A VA spokeswoman said as of Sept. 29 Taylor still was employed at the department.