Issue of the Week: Is it groundhog day? – A serious look at the latest conference scandal?

Welcome to GovLoop Insights Issue of the Week where each week, our goal is to find an issue — a person — an idea — then helped define the past 7-days… and we work to find an issue that will also will have an impact on the days, weeks and months ahead. And, as always, we focus on six words: helping you do your job better.

A busy week on GovLoop Insights’ DorobekINSIDER

Our issue of the week: looks at the conference scandal brewing at the Department of Veterans Affairs. The VA’s inspector general is looking into allegations of wasteful spending at two conferences that cost the VA at least $5 million. Federal Times says attendees received tens of thousands of dollars worth of swag. Steve Losey is a senior writer at Federal Times. He told me what exactly happened at the conferences last year.

The 15-minute video was shown only twice, parodied the iconic opening scene of “Patton,” in which World War II Gen. George Patton delivered a rousing speech to his troops in front of a massive American flag,” said Losey. See a clip of the video here.

But the video was the only questionable spending outlined in the IG report:

  • $84,000 in promotional items distributed to the conferences’ 1,829 attendees, including pens, highlighters, hand sanitizers and USB flash drives with VA’s logo.
  • $13,000 for at least seven employees from VA’s Washington headquarters to go on scouting trips to Nashville, Dallas and Orlando to look for possible locations to hold the conferences.
  • $3,000 for two photographers.

Illegal Gifts: VA employees who organized the conferences may have also illegally accepted gifts from hotels they were scouting. “Those alleged gifts may have included free rides in helicopters and stretch limousines, lodging, food, alcohol, concert tickets, spa treatments, gift baskets and embroidered pillow cases,” said Losey.

Investigation: House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa has launched a probe into conference spending across the government. “Congressman Issa suspects there might be more of this wasteful spending going on across government,” said Losey.

Weekend Reads:

  • A gaggle of smart software programmers arrived in Washington to start temporary assignments with the federal government. The 18 Presidential Innovation Fellows were selected by a panel of federal executives. GovLoop’s own Pat Fiorenza was on hand when they were introduced yesterday by Chief Technology Officer Todd Park. Seven hundred programmers applied for the program. Over the next few weeks, the Fellows will be blogging more in-depth about their program here on GovLoop, and working to share their best practices and tell their story how they are working to transform government.
  • And, you know how much we love the Mars Rover — have you checked out Curiosity’s twitter page? The page not only features breaktaking photos from the rover but funny gems like:

Coming up on Monday’s edition of the GovLoop Insights’ DorobekINSIDER

  • Chris Dorobek is back from vacation and he’ll be talking to James Cash a Finalist for the Service to America Medals.

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