By Mike Lillis
Rep. Bob Filner, chairman of the House Veterans' Affairs Committee, is going after the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) for what he calls its reluctance to rein in overspending.
The California Democrat is leery of the VHA's increased reliance on the so-called miscellaneous obligation (MO) process, where officials obligate funds for unknown future expenditures to ensure money is available when the needs arise. In fiscal 2009, the VA spent $12 billion on MOs, up from 6.9 billion in fiscal 2007.
"As we honor America’s veterans by keeping the promises made to them, it is critical that we ensure proper use of taxpayer money and financial accountability," Filner said Thursday in a statement. "I understand the need to obligate funds before you know the exact cost, however, these expenditures need to be tracked, itemized, and carefully reviewed.
"This particular procurement process is a disaster waiting to happen."
There's a reason for the concern: The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has warned that the use of MOs could increase fraud and abuse, because the VHA's "policies and procedures were not designed to provide adequate controls over [MOs]."
"VA's independent auditor reported that VA continued to have material weaknesses in financial management system functionality, IT security controls, and financial management oversight in fiscal year 2009," GAO reported this week.
Filner said he's “angry that the VA leadership continues to be unresponsive to these issues on cost controls."