The payments couldn’t help but catch the attention of the top procurement official at the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Employees in the purchasing department of a VA hospital in the Bronx had used government purchase cards like credit cards at least 2,000 times to buy prosthetic legs and arms for veterans.
Each time they swiped the cards, it was for $24,999. That was precisely one dollar below VA’s charging limit for purchase cards.
When word reached Congress about the $54,435,743 worth of prosthetics bought under such odd circumstances over two years — the subject of an inspector general investigation announced Monday — lawmakers demanded details. But they were told there was no documentation.
VA officials had prepared to tell Congress that the records had been destroyed by Hurricane Sandy, according to previously undisclosed records, until a senior adviser in the Secretary’s office pointed out that the timing was wrong and the excuse wouldn’t hold up.
The Bronx case was one of several acquisition practices Jan R. Frye described in an internal memo to Secretary Robert McDonald that accused the VA of mismanaging how its buys medical care and supplies for veterans.