The Department of Veterans Affairs spent $5 million—and set aside $4 million more — last year for two training conferences, and now the organizers of them are under investigation over whether they broke ethics rules by improperly accepting gifts, lawmakers and government sources said.
The agency’s inspector general is investigating whether event planners and other organizers of the training for human resources employees took alcohol, concert tickets and spa treatments from vendors. Also under scrutiny are tens of thousands of dollars in promotional items the conference organizers gave attendees, government sources said.
A total of about 1,800 VA employees attended the four-day event, held in July and August 2011 at the Marriott World Center in Orlando, officials said.
The probe comes four months after the General Services Administration became engulfed in scandal over a Las Vegas conference for that agency’s West Coast employees that cost $823,000. The cost of the four-day event, which was billed as a training exercise but was little more than an entertainment junket, was revealed in a scathing report by the GSA inspector general. GSA’s top leaders were fired or forced out as a result.