Energy reverses course on plan to hire VA executive at center of FedBid procurement fraud

Clarification: Federal News Radio learned that Thomas Johnson’s email about the hiring of Susan Taylor went to staff Sept. 12, not earlier this week.

Susan Taylor, the executive at the center of the latest Veterans Affairs Department scandal, was off to a new job to be the director Office of Procurement Planning at the Energy Department’s Office of Environmental Management. But Energy quickly did an about face and rescinded the job offer.

Thomas Johnson, the Office of Environmental Management’s associate deputy assistant secretary for Acquisition and Project Management, announced Taylor’s hiring in a Sept. 12 email, which Federal News Radio obtained. But now sources say Taylor will not work at the agency after all.

Susan Taylor (VA photo)
A source familiar with the situation confirmed Taylor will not be working at Energy.

A VA spokeswoman said Taylor still is employed at the agency.

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But as of early September, Johnson wrote an email to staff welcoming Taylor to Energy.

“I am pleased to announce the selection of Ms. Susan Taylor to the career Senior Executive Service (SES) position of Director, Office of Procurement Planning, effective October 5, 2014,” Johnson wrote in his email to staff. “Susan is a career SES employee with 21 years of experience in senior acquisition management positions. Positions have included Deputy Chief Procurement Officer at the Department of Veterans Affairs, Veterans Health Administration (VHA); Senior Procurement Executive and Director, Procurement Department at Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation; Associate Director of Contracting at the Army Contracting Center of Excellence, Pentagon; and, Director of Contracts for Ginnie Mae.”

So what happened over the last two weeks? One former senior human resources official said based on their reading of the report and the situation more broadly Energy likely didn’t do its homework.

“What happens frequently is sometimes people don’t do reference checks, which happens more than you think. They look at performance ratings and other things, and with VA touting their success with reverse auctions, Energy probably made a formal job offer before the whole IG report came out,” said the former official, who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation. “Usually after the formal job offer is made, an agency requests the SS-75, which includes preliminary employment data like Social Security number, date of birth and other essential data. The form also asks for any unfavorable data like warnings or decisions on adverse actions or IG investigations. When they made the job offer, they may not have the 75 information yet.”

The source, who spoke to Federal News Radio before Energy rescinded the job offer, said Energy would have to change its mind to hire Taylor because of the heat behind the IG report.

“This is a classic example of what’s wrong with government bureaucracy. Instead of doing the right thing and holding people accountable, lazy bureaucrats are content to simply transfer problem employees to other areas of the government,” said Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.), chairman of the Veterans Affairs Committee. “Everyone involved in this matter should be ashamed, especially Department of Justice officials, who need to have their heads examined after the inexplicable decision not to press charges as the OIG recommended.”

The potential move to a new agency comes on the heels of a scathing IG report about her alleged role in the latest VA scandal involving procurement fraud, lying to investigators, retaliating against whistleblowers and misusing agency resources.

The IG found in an 82-page report released Sept. 26 that Taylor, the deputy chief procurement officer in the Veterans Health Administration’s Procurement and Logistics Office, used her position to promote and award a contract to FedBid, a reverse auction vendor, and improperly acted as an agent of the vendor creating a conflict of interest. Investigators also claimed 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 (SES) employee be removed from SES during her probation period.”

Taylor also allegedly interfered with the IG’s investigation by lying about her involvement with VA’s FedBid contract and her relationship with executives of the company.

Additionally, the IG found FedBid executives acted improperly by allegedly taking “significant measures to disrupt and deprive VA’s right to transact official business honestly and impartially, free from improper and undue influence.”

As news about the IG report spread, at least one member of the House Veterans Affairs Committee demanded VA Secretary Bob McDonald take swift action against Taylor. Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.) wrote a letter to McDonald asking how VA plans to address the allegations contained in the IG’s report.

VA has until Oct. 17 to respond to Coffman’s questions.

Emails to Energy asking for comment were not immediately returned. An email to Taylor also wasn’t immediately returned.

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