VA seeks outsider to review conference planning policies

Tuesday - 8/28/2012, 12:04pm EDT

The Veterans Affairs Department wants a contractor to review the agency's conference planning and conference acquisition policies, according to a request for information in FedBizOpps.

The solicitation comes weeks after revelations that VA had spent a total of $5 million on two conferences last year, according to findings from a preliminary investigation by the VA's Office of the Inspector General. Giveaways at these two HR conferences included spa treatments, concert tickets and stretch limo rides.

The contractor will look for "weak points" and provide recommendations for improvement, according to the RFI.

"Analysis will be conducted on records, on paper, and electronic media. This will include analysis on the receipt of gifts, gratuities, or unbilled services provided to conference planners or other VA employees, and the necessity of pre- conference planning travel," the solicitation said.

VA will receive weekly updates from the contractor, and within 90 days of the contract award, the contractor will submit a final report. The deadline for contractors to respond is Friday.

The IG's office is expected to issue a final report of its investigation in September. Lawmakers have vowed to hold hearings on VA's conference spending after the IG's report is released.

Lawmakers have put conference spending at agencies across government under the microscope, following the revelations of lavish spending and improper contracting practices at a regional General Services Administration event in 2010.

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, recently announced his committee is looking into more than 150 conferences hosted by 11 agencies since 2005 where wasteful or excessive spending may have occurred.

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