Detroit’s Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) hospital spent $311,000 on TVs that were never used and remain in storage.
The federal agency’s facility ordered the 300 TVs “because they had funds available,” which “may have violated the bona fide needs rule,” according to a new report from the department’s inspector general (IG).
Now, the TVs have sat “in storage for about 2 1/2 years. Further, warranties for the TVs expired.”
Officials were going to use the TVs for a new patient area that had not been built. In May, 2013, they met with the contractor who was planning the future stalls and agreed they would have Ethernet hookups instead of cable. A month later, VA ordered cable-powered TVs instead of Ethernet-powered sets.
“This information was not shared with the … contractor and the compatibility issue with the TVs was not discovered until November 2013 when the facility received the first shipment of TVs,” the IG said.
At that time, they decided to pay the contractor more to install cable rather than return the TVs.
But the new patient area still hasn’t been constructed.
“The TVs and related accessories should have been purchased closer to the award date of the construction contract. By purchasing these items at least 2 1/2 years before a construction contract to install them was awarded, the Detroit VAMC prevented the use of about $292,500 that could have been better spent on other facility priorities. As of June 21, 2016, the facility had not yet awarded a contract to install these TVs,” the IG said.
In response to the IG’s claim the agency broke the “bona-fide needs rule” — that purchases should only be for items needed the same year — VA officials claimed they had received a legal opinion on the issue, but didn’t describe its conclusion.
The regional “director has obtained a legal opinion regarding the determination of violation of bona fide needs rule from the Office of General Counsel, District Contracting National Practice Group and will follow their recommendations and provide immediate remedy,” the VA said.
Senior VA officials frequently claim their department has too little funding to care properly for patients, and have threatened to close down hospitals unless Congress gives the VA more money.
Although much attention has been paid to the fact that VA managers falsified statistics showing how long veterans had to wait for care so that they could get bonuses, an audit found that VA contracting officials did the exact same thing.
Jan Frye, deputy assistant secretary for acquisition and logistics, the top contracting official at the VA, said a culture of “lawlessness and chaos” reigns on high-dollar contracts, with officials wantonly misusing credit cards and managers ignoring procurement rule violations.
Fry said there was $1.2 billion of problematic credit card purchases in the prosthetic department alone in an 18-month period, including $70,000 spent on veterinary care for a pet dog.
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