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Veterans Administration IT officials charged with hanky-panky, nepotism, abuse of authority...when did these folks work?

There seems to be some nasty goings-on in the IT department of the Veterans Administration.  The VA's inspector general is charging high-ranking officials in the agency's information technology office abused their authority, influenced the hiring of a contractor, engaged in nepotism,  oh, and engaged some unadvised hanky-panky.

Specifically the inspector general's office reported that Katherine Adair Martinez, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Information Protection and Risk Management (IPRM) in the Office of Information and Technology misused her position, abused her authority, and engaged in prohibited personnel practices when she influenced a VA contractor and later her VA subordinates to employ a new executive assistant named Laura Nash. 

The inspector also charged that Martinez misused her position when she took advantage of an inappropriate personal relationship with the former Assistant Secretary for Information and Technology, Robert Howard to move her workplace to Florida even though she spent almost 60% of her time at VA Central Office on official travel thereby chalking up $37,000 in expenses related to trips to Washington.  Then the agency alleges Martinez failed to provide proper contract oversight and did not properly fulfill her duties as a contracting officer.

According to Nextgov.com, Martinez was assigned to Howard's organization shortly after a major data breach in 2006 involving the theft of a VA laptop containing the records of more than 26 million veterans. According to the inspector's report, the two, who were married to other people at the time, began an "inappropriate personal relationship" in April 2007 that lasted until a few months after Howard left VA in January of this year.

The inspector's office also claimed  Kathryn Maginnis, Associate Deputy Assistant Secretary, IPRM, abused her authority engaged in prohibited personnel practices in the filling of four positions.

Not to be left out, the inspector's office said Jennifer Duncan, the former executive assistant to Howard, engaged in nepotism and that abused her authority when she improperly hired an acquaintance and friend at a rate above the minimum rate of pay. The office also aid she used her position for private gain. Duncan also approved more than $140,000 in VA funds to pay for friends and relatives to obtain graduate degrees at The George Washington University and other institutions, the inspector general concluded.

All of this activity must have left these folks happy because the report also concludes that  officials handed out more than $24 million in cash bonuses to VA employees during a two-year period, despite working under a budget deficit.

The inspector general wants administrative action taken against the current employees. Though what that will ultimately mean is uncertain.

In response to inspector general reports the VA said:

"VA is aware of the findings detailed in the OIG reports. VA expects our employees to set the highest levels of personal and professional conduct; therefore, we are extremely concerned by the descriptions of alleged improper conduct by VA staff. The department is aggressively pursuing a thorough review of the situation and will continue to work with the appropriate authorities. VA does not condone misconduct by its employees and will take the appropriate corrective actions for those who violate VA policy."

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