Saturday, March 03, 2007

VA Misappropriated Funds for Privatization Efforts

Cookie Jill at Skippy says that privatization played a part in the neglect at Walter Reed.

Though IAP (run by KBR CEO Al Neffgen) only got the contract to run Walter Reed in 2006, replacing 300 Federal employees with 50 contracted employees, money had been diverted, in violation of the law, from VA care between 2001 and 2004 to study the costs of privatization. Specifically,
... the VHA medical care appropriation accounts performed activities in support of cost comparison studies in connection with the CARES process, VA’s evaluation of its medical center laundry facilities, and for some of the 1,626 studies referenced in VA’s fiscal year 2002 PAR.
The VA had requested appropriations in amounts ranging from $16 - $50 million dollars to conduct such studies, but did not receive the appropriations. VA went ahead with its studies anyway because, in typical Bushite fashion, the VA simply disagreed with the GAO's interpretation of the law. Obviously, the Title 38 cost comparison funding prohibition means using VHA appropriations for some cost comparison is allowed.

Government agencies are required to do cost comparison studies, but must abide by the requirements of OMB Circular A-76, which streamlines studies to reduce administrative costs.
Sidestepping that requirement allowed the kind of waste private companies associated with Bu$hCo is becoming famous for.
... VA did not track the time and expense associated with performing cost comparison studies in-house and was thus unable to provide us with a reliable estimate of this amount.


Nonetheless, based on documentation provided by VA, the amount of time and effort spent in support of cost comparison studies likely was substantial. For example, according to VA’s Draft National CARES Plan, issued on August 4, 2003, hundreds of staff across VA devoted a great deal of time and energy to the CARES implementation process, which lasted 14 months.


the CARES process involves: (1) analyzing veterans’ health care needs—referred to as market analysis, (2) developing options to address those needs, (3) evaluating each option, and (4) implementation.
The funny part about the argument the VA and the GAO was having over the interpretation of the statute was when the GAO had to whip out the dictionary to explain what the words "any" and "study" meant.
... the crux of our disagreement with VA is the meaning of the word "study." According to a well-recognized dictionary of the sort that might have been available to the Congress in 1981, a "study" is defined broadly as a careful examination or analysis of a phenomenon, development, or question, or the publication of a report of such an examination or analysis. The other important word in the language of the prohibition is the word "any," which modified the word "study." In our October 2004 legal opinion, we construed "any" to mean "every" and "all." We found no evidence in the legislative history that the Congress intended the words "any" and "study" in their common, ordinary, and contemporary usage to mean only a "formal" (i.e., standard) A-76 study.

Message board argument flashback!

And it's pretty sad how the House Committee on Government Reform had to inform the VA's Secretary, "that timely, accurate cost accounting data are integral to effective budgeting. "

Interestingly, R. James Nicholson, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, was made a Knight of the Grand Cross of the Order of Pius IX while acting as Ambassador to the Holy See in 2003. Doesn't the Constitution say something about that? person holding any office of profit or trust under [the United States], shall, without the consent of the Congress, accept of any present, emolument, office, or title, of any kind whatever, from any king, prince, or foreign state.

As was explained to me by an expert when I called C-SPAN during the 2000 election recount, an office of profit or trust includes ambassadorships. I did a quick search of the Congressional record, and found no record of Congress consenting to a U.S. Ambassador accepting a foreign title. Goddamned piece of paper. But what was the common understanding of "any kind whatever" when the Constitution was drafted? It must have meant "some kinds, sometimes."

Well, obviously I lost my train of thought on this subject. Goddamned decongestants. Suffice it to say, once again, whether the issue is big or small, Bu$hCo is corrupt.


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