The inspector general’s office at the Department of Veterans Affairs is defending its actions after the office came under unusual criticism from its counterpart at the Treasury Department.
In a report in December, the VA inspector’s office found that a former VA procurement officer improperly steered $15 million in uncompetitive contracts to a friend’s company. The report also accused the former official, Iris Cooper, of a “lack of candor” during the IG’s investigation.
The VA report sparked a rare and sharp rebuke from the Treasury Department’s inspector general, who said the allegations against Cooper were unsupported and based on a complaint by a VA supervisor that Cooper had complained about for creating a hostile work environment. Cooper is now a top contracting official with the Treasury Department.
Eric Thorson, the Treasury IG, said his review found that while Cooper knew two officers of the company that received the contract, Ohio-based Tridec Technologies, she did not award the contract nor did she improperly influence those who did. Thorson said the VA report “calls into question the integrity of the VA OIG’s actions.”
Maureen Regan, a top official at the VA inspector’s office who wrote the VA report, called Thorson’s letter unfounded and improper. She told a congressional committee Monday night that she stands behind the original report and has referred Thorson’s actions to a committee that oversees federal inspectors general.
The chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee said he found VA’s actions in the Cooper case troubling.
“The implication that VA OIG was acting as a retaliatory arm of a VA executive who had a score to settle with another employee is downright disturbing and demands further investigation,” said Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla.