They also rewarded themselves with massages, manicures and pedicures at a hotel spa, but later they got an even bigger reward: tens of thousands of dollars in bonuses for a job well done.
“This is a pattern where we see bonuses are an entitlement, they’re automatic,” Mr. Issa said.
The report said Mr. Sepulveda was responsible for staying on top of the conference plans. And the inspector general found he lied when he told investigators he didn’t know anything about one of the most widely publicized instances of questionable spending — a $50,000 parody video.
Richard Griffin, the VA’s deputy inspector general, said his office made 49 recommendations in the wake of its report on the conferences, though Mr. Issa noted that more than half of them have not yet been implemented by the VA.
“The problem was [that] no one was in charge,” Mr. Griffin said.
And even though several officials were removed from their jobs, nobody was fired in the traditional sense, Mr. Issa said. Even if they were kicked out of the department, employees were allowed to retire and collect retirement benefits, he said.
VA officials said they’ve enacted reforms to make sure the wasteful spending wouldn’t happen again.
“As a result of VA’s internal review, directed by Secretary [Eric] Shinseki, the department issued policy on September 26, 2012, that reflects the commitment to strengthen oversight, improve accountability and safeguard taxpayer dollars,” Gina Farrisee, the VA’s assistant secretary for human resources, testified.