Share

Topics: Veterans Affairs

Watchdog: VA spent $90K on conference coffee breaks

By |
Photo -
News,Watchdog,Mark Flatten,Veterans Affairs

Here's a stiff jolt to wake you up.

The Department of Veterans Affairs spent $90,747 on coffee and refreshments during morning and afternoon breaks at a pair of training conferences in Orlando last year.

These are huge sums of money that are being spent and I'm really concerned about VA and its priorities as it relates to veterans and their future. - House Committee on Veterans Affairs Chairman Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla.

These are the same conferences where the $52,000 video parody of the movie Patton - paid for with taxpayer dollars - was first screened. The total cost of the two VA get-togethers held in July and August 2011 at the Marriott World Center in Orlando was about $5.3 million.

The coffee klatches were needed to carry participants between their regular meals, which tallied $98,189 for four days of catering, and their "morning and evening refreshments," which came with a price tag of almost $185,000.

At least the VA employees were not famished when they arrived at Karaoke Night, which cost $862.

The new numbers come from the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, which has been pressing the VA for spending details related to the human resources training conferences since it learned earlier this month that whistleblower tips led to an investigation by the agency's inspector general.

"These are huge sums of money that are being spent and I'm really concerned about VA and its priorities as it relates to veterans and their future," committee Chairman Jeff Miller, R-Fla., told the Examiner, adding the committee has expanded its investigation to conferences held over the past two years.

"Agencies have thrown around dollars like there was no end to the financial capability of the United States. It's become a way of life."

Spending at the VA conferences in Orlando include:

• $1.2 million: Participant Travel

• $786, 505: Program Funds

• $296,165: "Audio Visual Center"

• $184,800: Morning and Evening Refreshments

• $113,076: Staff Travel

• $98,189: Catering (4 days)

• $90,747: Coffee Break Refreshments

• $52,000: "Patton-style" Video

• $46,147: Labor for 35 Breakout Rooms

• $40,158: Miscellaneous Expenses

• $31,500: Video Production

• $862: Karaoke Night

Bottom line: The first conference cost $2.9 million and the second a month later $2.4 million.

Contact Mark Flatten at mflatten@washingtonexaminer.com

Follow all the work of the Washington Examiner Watchdog team -- now on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter (@WshExWatchdog). 

Original coffee photograph by flickr user dyobmit, used under a Creative Commons license. Photo illustration by Jennifer Peebles/Washington Examiner. 

View article comments Leave a comment