Two Republican legislators are calling for the chief of staff to Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki to step down.
Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), the ranking Republican on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, and Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.), chairman of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, sent a letter to Shinseki calling on the removal of John R. Gingrich, Shinseki’s chief of staff.
The letter cites a report by the inspector general of Veterans Affairs, “Administrative Investigation of the F[iscal] Y[ear] 2011 Human Resources Conference in Orlanda, Florida,” which found examples of “wasteful spending” at two Human Resource conferences last year.
“We are disturbed by the lack of leadership, lack of judgment and wasteful spending outlined by this report, particularly at the highest levels of the department,” the letter reads.
The two Republicans are calling on Gingrich to resign because of a “lack of leadership” concerning the conferences.
“In a directive to the department dated January 29, 2009, Mr. Gingrich initiated for himself the ultimate responsibility on behalf of VA for approving conferences involving 100 or more employees,” the Republicans write.
Burr and Miller continue Gingrich’s approval of the $8-million budget for the conferences where the inspector general found unnecessary spending shows that the chief of staff treated his responsibility far too “casually.”
“We can only conclude that Mr. Gingrich’s role was merely to provide the appearance of oversight, nothing more,” Burr and Miller wrote.
The two Republicans conclude the letter arguing that Gingrich’s removal would send a clear message to the rest of the Department of Veterans Affairs.
“Accountability begins at the top. In this instance, the VA Chief of Staff cavalierly approved an exorbitant conference budget under the guise of a process meant to safeguard against that very occurrence. A message must be sent to all VA employees that perfunctory execution of so great a responsibility is inexcusable at any time, and at any level. Mr Gingrich’s removal as chief of staff is the unequivocal way to deliver that message of accountability.”
In August, Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), the chairwoman of the Veterans Affairs committee, said she was “deeply disturbed” over initial reports of wasteful spending at the conferences.
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