A top official at the U.S. Department of Labor has resigned after an Inspector General investigation, requested by U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill, found that the official, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Veterans' Employment and Training Services (VETS) Raymond Jefferson, circumvented rules and regulations to secure government contracts for friends and colleagues.
McCaskill, Chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Contracting Oversight, was approached late last year by a whistleblower who shared allegations of contracting fraud committed by senior officials within the Department. A thorough investigation by the Labor Department's Inspector General (McCaskill's request for an investigation is available on her website, HERE) resulted in a report released publicly today.
The report (executive summary HERE) describes a "pattern of conduct" by Assistant Secretary of Labor for VETS, Raymond Jefferson, "which reflects a consistent disregard of federal procurement regulations, federal ethics principles, and the proper stewardship of appropriated dollars."
McCaskill was informed yesterday that as a result of the investigation, Jefferson has resigned. The Labor Department has also taken control of procurement authority in the VETS program to ensure that no contracts can be awarded without approval of senior officials outside the program.
"This entire investigation shows us that nobody is above accountability," McCaskill said. "Over the course of my career, I've fought to ensure such accountability, investigate abuses of power, and protect taxpayer dollars from being wasted through fraud or abuse. I'm disappointed whenever we find these abuses--but by leaving no stone unturned, I'm confident we can succeed in cleaning up the federal government."
McCaskill, an outspoken advocate for federal Inspectors General, expressed gratitude towards the whistleblower who brought the case to light and also cited the importance of protections for whistleblowers.
"I'd stand in front of a train to protect their identity," McCaskill said. "And this goes to show that they shouldn't just assume that nothing will happen if they come forward. Whistleblowers have got a friend in this office."
Until this week, Jefferson served as a political appointee overseeing the Labor Department's VETS program, which provides training and employment opportunities to veterans. The Inspector General's report describes several instances in which Jefferson bypassed rules and regulations to funnel government contracts to his friends and acquaintances, intimidated his subordinates, and made certain that his acquaintances were hired above potentially more qualified applicants.
The full Inspector General's report is available on McCaskill's website, HERE.
McCaskill described the waste of resources in a program intended to empower America's veterans as "all the more disappointing."