Whistleblower Says VA Engages in Unlawful Procurement Practices


The VA knowingly and willfully engages in unlawful procurement practices, according to Jan Frye, the VA’s deputy assistant secretary in the Office of Acquisitions and Logistics. Learn more in this week’s blog.



A Veterans Affairs whistleblower alleged that the VA engages in unlawful procurement practices.



Whistleblower Says VA Engages in Unlawful Procurement Practices


Lawful VA procurement practices are conducted as follows. For any purchase of more than $3,000, the VA must use a VA procurement card, and the purchase must be made under an existing contract. The VA has more than 25,000 purchase cards and 23,000 employee cardholders who are authorized to make purchases.


Frye claims that instead of making purchases via existing contracts, VA procurement officials frequently make purchases on the open market. In addition, “Linda Halliday, from the VA’s inspector general’s office, added VA acquisitions employees split up purchases so each card would be charged less than $3,000, though total purchases far exceeded that amount,” according to Government Executive.


The problem with making purchases off-contract is that government has no recourse if a veteran is harmed by one of these products or services. Furthermore, “by declining to enter into federally mandated contracts, officials removed levels of review to authorize spending and ensure proper execution and ratification of orders.” And finally, purchasing goods on the open market is frequently more expensive than purchasing them through the competitive contracts process.

Frye claims that the VA unlawfully spends at least $5 billion every year on procurement.


Frye had brought this matter to the attention of VA Secretary Bob McDonald with an internal 35-page memorandum he sent in March. Frye had not heard back from McDonald, and decided to go public during a congressional hearing in front of the House Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations last week.


Lawmakers expressed frustration and impatience with the VA, which has been in the news for numerous incidents in recent years, including allegations that it was not seeing patients in a timely manner. Secretary McDonald acknowledged the problem of waste in the department’s procurement practices, but placed the responsibility for fixing the issue on Frye.


Frye also noted that he has worked in purchased card offices in three other federal agencies, and that the practices in which he alleges the VA is engaging would not have been tolerated in those agencies.



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