WASHINGTON (AP) — Top Republican lawmakers have called on Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki to fire his chief of staff for approving two training conferences that led to $762,000 in questionable spending.
The department had already accepted the resignation of an assistant secretary in response to a critical inspector general's report released last week. Federal investigators found the conferences were held to fulfill valid training needs, but some expenses were unnecessary or wasteful, such as $50,000 for a video that was a parody of former Gen. George S. Patton.
Rep. Jeff Miller and Sen. Richard Burr said in a letter released Tuesday that accountability begins at the top. They said the department's chief of staff, John Gingrich, bears ultimate responsibility because he approved the conferences held last year in Orlando Fla. They said in the letter that a message must be sent to all VA employees that the "perfunctory execution" of important responsibilities is inexcusable.
"To say he treated his responsibility casually is an understatement," said Miller, chairman of the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs, and Burr, the ranking republican on the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs. "We can only conclude that Mr. Gingrich's role was merely to provide the appearance of oversight, nothing more."