VA Secretary and His Wimbledon Excursion

The Inspector General came out with his report on Veteran Administration Secretary David Shulkin’s July trip to Europe. You can read the full report here: Herewith, some highlights:

1. Less than two weeks before the 11-day trip began, the Secretary sent out a memo to VA employees titled “Essential Employee Travel.” The memorandum instructed staff that before approving any employee travel, managers must determine whether the travel is “essential” in order to decrease “employee travel and generate savings” within VA.
2. The trip included 3.5 days of conference and meetings in Denmark to study their veteran’s programs and facilities. Given the vast Danish army, one understands the need for that detour.
3. The VA paid for Dr. Shulkin’s wife’s travel because Dr. Shulkin’s chief of staff represented to the VA that Dr. Bari (aka Mrs. Shulkin) was an “invited guest” for an award ceremony. There was no award or ceremony. It strikes the Barometer that the VA has a way to go before being in award territory. The IG made a criminal referral to the Justice Department for possible prosecution for the fraudulent statements about the award. The DOJ declined prosecution at this time.
4. Dr. Shulkin and his wife received tickets to the women’s finals at Wimbledon from someone they called as friend of Dr. Bari (Mrs. Shulkin). When the IG’s office interviewed the “friend,” after 19 attempts to contact her, the “friend” could not recall or did not know Dr. Bari’s first name. The VA ethics officer had approved the gift of the tickets under the “relationship”exception to federal officials accepting gifts.
5. The total cost of the trip for Dr. Shulkin and his wife was $122,334, not counting the time a staff member spent arranging all of the leisure travel for the secretary and his wife. The OIG concluded that this VA staff member became the secretary’s travel concierge.

One observer said, “A lot of them may want him to go, but who would replace him?”

Perhaps someone who has respect for the limited resources of the VA and believes those resources should go to veterans and not European excursions. Can the VA really get better under a leader with such a tin ear on both spending and example?

About mmjdiary

Professor Marianne Jennings is an emeritus professor of legal and ethical studies from the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University, retiring in 2011 after 35 years of teaching undergraduate and graduate courses in ethics and the legal environment of business. During her tenure at ASU, she served as director of the Joan and David Lincoln Center for Applied Ethics from 1995-1999. In 2006, she was appointed faculty director for the W.P. Carey Executive MBA Program. She has done consulting work for businesses and professional groups including AICPA, Boeing, Dial Corporation, Edward Jones, Mattel, Motorola, CFA Institute, Southern California Edison, the Institute of Internal Auditors, AIMR, DuPont, AES, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Motorola, Hy-Vee Foods, IBM, Bell Helicopter, Amgen, Raytheon, and VIAD. The sixth edition of her textbook, Case Studies in Business Ethics, was published in February 2011. The ninth edition of her textbook, Business: lts Legal, Ethical and Global Environment was published in January 2011. The 23rd edition of her book, Business Law: Principles and Cases, will be published in January 2013. The tenth edition of her book, Real Estate Law, will also be published in January 2013. Her book, A Business Tale: A Story of Ethics, Choices, Success, and a Very Large Rabbit, a fable about business ethics, was chosen by Library Journal in 2004 as its business book of the year. A Business Tale was also a finalist for two other literary awards for 2004. In 2000 her book on corporate governance was published by the New York Times MBA Pocket Series. Her book on long-term success, Building a Business Through Good Times and Bad: Lessons from Fifteen Companies, Each With a Century of Dividends, was published in October 2002 and has been used by Booz, Allen, Hamilton for its work on business longevity. Her latest book, The Seven Signs of Ethical Collapse was published by St. Martin’s Press in July 2006 and has been a finalist for two book awards. Her weekly columns are syndicated around the country, and her work has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the Chicago Tribune, the New York Times, Washington Post, and the Reader's Digest. A collection of her essays, Nobody Fixes Real Carrot Sticks Anymore, first published in 1994 is still being published. She has been a commentator on business issues on All Things Considered for National Public Radio. She has served on four boards of directors, including Arizona Public Service (1987-2000), Zealous Capital Corporation, and the Center for Children with Chronic Illness and Disability at the University of Minnesota. She was appointed to the board of advisors for the Institute of Nuclear Power Operators in 2004 and served on the board of trustees for Think Arizona, a public policy think tank. She has appeared on CNBC, CBS This Morning, the Today Show, and CBS Evening News. In 2010 she was named one of the Top 100 Thought Leaders in Business Ethics by Trust Across America. Her books have been translated into four different languages. She received the British Emerald award for authoring one of their top 50 articles in management publications, chosen from over 15,000 articles. Personal: Married since 1976 to Terry H. Jennings, Maricopa County Attorney’s Office Deputy County Attorney; five children: Sarah, Sam, and John, and the late Claire and Hannah Jennings.
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