Less than a week after the Energy Department withdrew an offer of employment to Susan Taylor, the Veterans Health Administration’s deputy chief procurement officer at the center of a procurement scandal involving FedBid, the VA announced Monday it has started the formal process of removing Taylor from her position at the agency.
“The proposed removal of the DCPO underscores VA’s commitment to hold leaders accountable and get Veterans the care they need,” Deputy VA Secretary Sloan Gibson said in a statement. Gibson said Ricky Lemmon, director of Service Area Office Central, has been appointed acting deputy procurement and logistics officer until a permanent replacement for Taylor can be found.
Taylor was the central focus of a damning 82-page investigation released Sept. 29 by the VA inspector general in which the agency said she abused her position and “improperly acted as an agent of FedBid in matters before the government.” The IG substantiated that Taylor had been giving private reverse auction company FedBid preferential treatment, going as far as disclosing proprietary information and pressuring contracting staff to award a task order for reverse auction services to FedBid. Although the IG referred the matter to the Justice Department for criminal prosecution, DOJ did not press charges and recommended VA take administrative actions.
Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, struck a cautious tone in a statement released shortly after VA’s announcement. “Congress acted with near unanimity to give the VA secretary greater authority to actually fire failing executives, not just propose removing them. Because this is merely a proposed action, we need to reserve judgment on whether appropriate accountability has been achieved until a final decision on Susan Taylor’s employment has been reached,” Miller said.
The proposed removal of Taylor comes as the VA took the extraordinary step Monday to fire four other senior executives tied to the nationwide waiting list scandal. The firings were the first under the Veterans’ Access to Care through Choice, Accountability, and Transparency Act of 2014, which made it easier for the VA to remove members of the senior executive service who were found guilty of misconduct.
“What I don’t want to see happen is for Taylor to retire, resign or find another government job outside of VA without consequence — a pattern that has been emerging in recent weeks,” Miller said. “The only way the department can regain the trust of veterans and taxpayers is if VA employees who preside over malfeasance and mismanagement are held accountable, and it’s up to department leaders to make sure that happens.”