- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The Department of Veterans Affairs is under fire again as a new watchdog report reveals that the agency spent $85.6 million in taxpayer dollars on unauthorized commitments.

The Veterans Affairs inspector general’s office reported that during fiscal years 2012 and 2013 the VA made about 15,600 potential unauthorized transactions because of inadequate warrant information, insufficient verification of cardholder warrant limitations, and insufficient training.

The questionable purchases account for nearly 5 percent of the VA’s total $1.8 billion in cardholder commitments.

In 2012, the VA institutionally approved thousands of questionable purchases made with the Pharmaceutical Prime Vendor instead of individually reviewing each purchase.

According to the watchdog’s report, the VA cannot assure that cardholders protected the government’s interests when purchasing unapproved goods and services because there is no proof that the items were purchased at a fair price.

The inspector general conducted the investigation after receiving accusations that VA cardholders made unauthorized purchases exceeding $3,000 without holding valid warrants.

The VA failed to perform proper ratification action on the transactions in question.

Since January 2013, the VA has removed purchase authorization from 353 cardholders and has begun a review of micro-purchase transactions in FY 2013.
While the report estimates nearly $42.8 million in questionable spending in FY 2013, the VA Office of Management stated in their response that their preliminary review came back with a much smaller amount.

“Although preliminary, we have narrowed the universe of possible unauthorized commitments for FY 2013 to 752 transactions, totaling $6.4 million,” said Helen Tierney, chief financial officer at the VA office of management. “The $6.4 million is a worst-case scenario, meaning that further review may determine that some of these transactions were, in fact, appropriate and not unauthorized commitments.”

The Office of Management and Office of Acquisition, Logistics, and Construction wrote in their responses that they would work to improve procedures to ratify potentially questionable transactions.

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