Congress Demands VA Chief Explain Art Purchases With Subpoena

Thomas Phippen | Reporter

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) must give Congress information on all art purchases since 2010, a House committee said Wednesday.

The House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs issued a subpoena the VA to produce unredacted documents on “artwork and ornamental furnishings” purchases nationwide since 2010.

“We will not accept VA trying to pull the wool over the eyes of this committee and the American people for poor decision making and waste of funds made on the part of the department,” Chairman Rep. Jeff Miller said at the hearing. “It is unfortunate that VA’s continued lack of transparency has led us to this decision, but we have not done so without ample justification.”

Miller first requested a report on the VA’s art spending in October, 2015, but the department had not provided the information, or even responded to the request, according to Miller’s letter.

Miller threatened to subpoena VA for full documentation of art purchases in an July 29 letter to Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert McDonald. He gave the committee until Aug. 26 to respond, but says the department did not respond until he set a committee meeting to vote on a subpoena. (RELATED: Republican Threatens To Subpoena VA Over Lavish Art Spending)

The VA’s “response was wholly incomplete,” Miller said.

“VA claims to have spent approximately $4.7 million on art nationwide from January 2010 to July 2016, yet the committee has already substantiated over $6.4 million spent during this period in the Palo Alto health care system alone,” Miller said.

The VA spent nearly $20 million on artwork since 2010, according to a report from independent government spending watchdog OpenTheBooks. Many art purchases were hidden in other contracts for landscaping and furniture, OpenTheBooks.com found. (RELATED: Report: VA Spends $20 Million On Art Instead Of Hiring Doctors)

The subpoena also demands unredacted documents of mismanagement of Aurora, Colo., VA hospital construction, a project that went more than $1 billion over budget. (RELATED: VA’s Army Of Bored Interior Designers Can’t Keep Their Hands Off Brazilian Wood)

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Tags : department of veterans affairs house committee on veterans affairs jeff miller robert mcdonald
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