First the General Services Administration (GSA). Now the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). According to several news sources, the VA has wasted taxpayer money at recent conferences.
"The VA's OIG [office of inspector general] released a 142-page report portraying a sweeping lack of oversight and confused accounting for expenses, which it said topped $6 million for two training conferences in Orlando, Florida, last year," reported Phil Stewart for Reuters. "It calculated that $762,000 of that total was either 'unauthorized, unnecessary and/or wasteful expenses.'"
One of the wasteful expenses include a parody video shown at an event in Orlando to inspire a crowd of HR professionals. There were also acts of gift receiving.
"Adding to the vacation-like atmosphere of the events, the watchdog found at least 11 VA employees accepted illegal gifts from hotels and other vendors seeking their business in connection with the conferences," reported John Solomon for the Washington Guardian. "VA officials toured three cities before choosing Orlando as the conference destination.
"The gifts they accepted during the selection process and subsequent conferences ranged from free lodging, room upgrades and limo rides to meals, gift baskets, gift cards, spa massages, Rockettes show tickets and a helicopter ride, the inspector general reported."
"Still, an OIG official told reporters on a conference call that there did not appear to be any 'quid pro quo,' with planners demanding gifts in exchange for deals with contractors," Stewart reported.
The VA's assistant secretary for human resources and administration, John Sepulveda, has resigned, and two employees have been put on leave.
As we've learned from the GSA experience, these news stories can quickly get out of control. So, it's more important than ever that you help support meeting industry advocacy. Associations can't do it alone; we need the help of the members to advocate. To learn how, please visit our One Industry. One Voice. page.
Want an easy, first step to becoming an advocate? Make your voice heard loud and clear. Regardless of what country you call home, voting is the easiest way to become an advocate. As industry advocate Roger Rickard told more than 200 MPI chapter leaders at the most recent MPI Chapter Business Summit: Connecting Leaders Conference, "If we as an industry can stand up and say that we are meeting professionals and 100 percent of us voted in the last election, that carries a lot of weight."
So, if you're a U.S. meeting professional and haven't registered for the upcoming election, here's a link to Rock the Vote: https://register2.rockthevote.com/registrants/new?partner=2251. But don't delay, depending on which state you live in, the deadline could be as early as October 6.