October 2 Update: Today the Washington Post reported that FedBid, mentioned below, also "leaned on" Secretary Shinseki before his resignation, sending a retired Army Chief of Staff and others with significant influence...to influence, to turn a buck, and to corrupt.
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on September 29, 2014 at 2:58 PM, updated September 29, 2014 at 3:33 PM
More VA contracting complaints, following on our concerns over VBA's sole-source, no-bid unsolicited proposal for an even larger $600,000 contract on post-Vietnam War Agent Orange studies.
WASHINGTON -- A secret affair, an attempt to "assassinate" the character of an official who got in the way of a contract, and blatant conflicts of interests: This isn't a TV soap opera, but a report from the inspector general for the Department of Veterans Affairs about a contracting scandal at the agency's health services agency.
The report, issued Monday, doesn't read like any routine federal audit. It centers on Susan Taylor, deputy chief procurement officer at the Department of Veterans Affairs.
For starters, the report notes, Taylor "allowed her subordinate, to award a purchase order with an annual value of $80,000 to William Dobryzkowski's private business.
Sounds like a routine contract. But the report discloses that Taylor and Dobrzykowski were lovers, and the contract enabled him to work directly with Taylor as a consultant, and travel with her on government related trips.
It quotes from an email found in Taylor's government account. It was addressed to Dobrzykowski's wife
"I am sorry to have to inform you that your Bill has been having an affair for over 18 years," and "I will share with you as much of the details as I know." Further down, the email indicates that "Bill" asked the woman to marry her, and on 'Christmas Eve 2007 "he gave her a diamond engagement ring."
Taylor admitted in subsequent interviews, the IG report said, that she had a relationship with Dobrzykowski since 1994 when both worked for the Department of Housing and Urban Affairs.
The report said that Taylor helped FedBid, a Virginia firm, get a lucrative contract with the VA for something called reverse auction services. The report said that Taylor and FedBid said the services wouldn't cost the agency any money, but disguised the cost of transaction fees charged by the Virginia firm. It said the contract was awarded under a process that lasted just two days, with one of them being a government holiday.
When Jan Frye, the VA official responsible for acquisition and logical policy stepped in and tried to end the contract, Dobrzykowski, who once had applied for a top job at FedBid, according to the IG, wrote to company officials asking them to work with Taylor. "She is your champion," he said in the email, according to the IG report.
Glen Richardson, listed as a former FedBid president and currently its senior advisor to the chairman, responded, the IG report said, with an email to his FedBid colleagues:
"Worst fears realized -- Frye doesn't want to shut us out of VA, he wants to shut us down completely. Therefore we need to show this is a malicious and arbitrary attack on us, filled with false statements, innuendo, and absurdities. Need to assassinate his character and discredit him."
All this led the VA Inspector General to send its findings to the Department of Justice for potential criminal prosecution.
"Ms. Taylor, Mr. Dobrzykowski, and FedBid executives took significant measures to disrupt and deprive VA's right to transact official business honestly and impartially, free from improper and undue influence," the IG concluded. "In their own words, their intent was to 'storm the castle,' use a 'heavy-handed-puncher,' to 'rally the troops up on the Hill,' have 'enough 'top cover to overwhelm,' to 'unleash the hounds,' to 'assassinate (Mr. Frye's) character' and discredit him,' and to keep 'close hold' nonpublic information Ms. Taylor provided FedBid executives, as well as repeatedly and falsely tell VA leadership that there was 'no cost to VA for its use of FedBid, all for the indomitable world of FedBid.'"
"Furthermore, we found that Mr. Dobrzykowski, Ms. Taylor's close personal friend, was improperly involved with Ms. Taylor in matters related to VA and FedBid."
Taylor could not be reached for comment. FedBid issued this statement through a spokesman:
"FedBid has cooperated fully with this VA OIG investigation. We believe FedBid took appropriate actions to protect its ability to lawfully perform the business services it was contracted to provide with Veterans Health Administration (VHA). Additionally, our company has always been transparent about its fee structure and the savings the FedBid marketplace can facilitate when buying commodity goods and simple services. It is important to point out, as our data demonstrates, that this report does not dispute that the FedBid marketplace stimulated competition that resulted in lower prices for VHA.
The reports comes as the Department of Veterans Affairs is trying to reinvent itself after allegations of fake wait times at VA medical facilities that disguised long delays to see a doctor.
Frye told the inspector general that FedBid "went after me" for pushing a recommendation to put a moratorium on "reverse auction services," contacting top officials at the Department of Veterans Affairs and in Congress. The company's argument was that the contract with VA didn't cost any tax dollars, which the IG said simply wasn't accurate.
"They made it look like I had performed a criminal act by protecting the public's interest," Frye told the VA inspector general "I know that it was VHA that fed this information to FedBid within hours or minutes maybe after I put this moratorium directive out."