05-24-2018  6:50 am      •     
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NEWS BRIEFS

Mississippi Avenue Giving Tuesday

On Tuesday, May 22, 10 percent of proceeds from participating Mississippi Ave. businesses will go to SEI ...

Raina Croff to Speak at Architectural Heritage Center

'When the Landmarks are Gone: Older African Americans, Place, and Change in N/NE Portland’ describes SHARP Walking Program ...

Portland Playhouse Presents August Wilson’s ‘Fences’ Through June 10

May 20 performance will include discussion on mental health; June 10 performance will be followed by discussion of fatherhood ...

Peggy Houston-Shivers Presents Benefit Concert for Allen Temple CME

Concert to take place May 20 at Maranatha Church ...

Man gets 13 years for crashing motorhome into patrol cars

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — A Salem man pleaded guilty and was sentenced to more than 13 years in prison for assault against Salem police officers after leading police on a chase through Salem and ramming his motor home into officers in their patrol cars.The Statesman Journal reports 61-year-old Roy...

Woodburn officer gets 150 days in jail for child sex abuse

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — A former Woodburn police officer has been sentenced to 150 days in jail and five years of probation for having sex with an underage girl and soliciting sexual contact from the child online.The Statesman Journal reports that 29-year-old Daniel Kerbs was sentenced Wednesday....

Worker who died in fall at Sound Transit site identified

SEATTLE (AP) — Officials have identified the man who died after falling from a light rail column at a Sound Transit construction site in Bellevue.The Seattle Times reports 63-year-old Walter Burrows was a foreman and a longtime employee at Kiewit, the company building the elevated light rail...

Case of Legionnaires' disease suspected at UW Medical Center

SEATTLE (AP) — A case of Legionnaires' disease has been suspected at the University of Washington Medical Center.KOMO-TV reported Wednesday that this is the third time in as many years that the disease has been suspected at the facility.Officials said the patient "has been diagnosed with a...

OPINION

Racism After Graduation May Just Be What's on the Menu

Dr. Julianne Malveaux says that for our young millennials, racism is inevitable ...

Prime Minister Netanyahu Shows Limits of Israel’s Democracy

Bill Fletcher, Jr. on racial politics in Israel and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s uneven treatment of African immigrants ...

Golfing While Black Is Not a Crime

Grandview Golf Club asks five Black women to leave for golfing too slow ...

Discovering the Best of Black America in 2018

Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis discusses the DTU Journalism Fellowship & Scholarship Program ...

AFRICAN AMERICANS IN THE NEWS

Bucks' Brown decries 'police intimidation' during arrest

MILWAUKEE (AP) — The Milwaukee police chief has apologized to Sterling Brown and says officers have been disciplined for acting "inappropriately" after the Bucks player was zapped with a stun gun during his arrest for a parking violation in January.Brown, who is African-American, said in a...

George Zimmerman tells court he's [scripts/homepage/home.php].5 million in debt

SANFORD, Fla. (AP) — The ex-neighborhood watch volunteer who killed a black teen in Florida in 2012 says he's [scripts/homepage/home.php].5 million in debt and has no income.George Zimmerman filed paperwork detailing his financial state as he fights a misdemeanor stalking charge.The Orlando Sentinel reports a public...

Senate primary splits Arizona conservatives between 2 icons

SCOTTSDALE, Arizona (AP) — Former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio was asking dozens of tea party activists for their backing in Arizona's Republican Senate primary when one audience member said it was a shame disgruntled conservatives couldn't send "both of you" to Washington.The man...

ENTERTAINMENT

In taking on 'Solo,' Ehrenreich faced an unenviable task

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Thandie Newton jokes that there might be something off about Alden Ehrenreich — because how else could he take on the pressure-filled role of Han Solo with so much ease?"Every week, I was expecting a call that Alden had had a nervous breakdown and wouldn't be coming...

Rockwell work at center of controversy gets M at auction

PITTSFIELD, Mass. (AP) — One of the two Norman Rockwell paintings at the center of a Massachusetts museum's contentious decision to sell 40 works of art has been sold at auction for more than million."Blacksmith's Boy — Heel and Toe," also known as "Shaftsbury Blacksmith Shop," was...

Michael Jackson estate slams ABC TV special on his last days

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The estate of Michael Jackson is objecting to an ABC TV special on the end of the King of Pop's life, calling it a crass attempt to exploit Jackson without respect for his legacy or children.The estate said in a statement to The Associated Press on Wednesday that "The Last...

U.S. & WORLD NEWS

Bucks' Brown decries 'police intimidation' during arrest

MILWAUKEE (AP) — The Milwaukee police chief has apologized to Sterling Brown and says officers have been...

Feds: Uber self-driving SUV saw pedestrian but didn't brake

DETROIT (AP) — Federal investigators say the autonomous Uber SUV that struck and killed an Arizona...

Cyclone Mekunu pounds Yemen island on its path to Oman

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Cyclone Mekunu pounded the Yemeni island of Socotra in the Arabian Sea...

Report: Several hurt in Turkish explosives factory blast

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — A Turkish media report says an explosion has occurred at a government-owned...

More than 350 observers to monitor Turkish elections

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — An international security body says it is deploying 22 long-term and 350 short-term...

North Korea demolishes nuclear site ahead of Trump summit

PUNGGYE-RI, North Korea (AP) — Just weeks ahead of a planned summit with U.S. President Donald Trump, Kim...

U.S. Army veteran Kenneth Chavis
Matthew Daly, Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Department of Veterans Affairs is improperly spending at least $5 billion a year for medical care and supplies being purchased in violation of required practices for competitive bidding and written contracts, a senior VA official said Thursday.

"Gross mismanagement" by senior agency leaders has wasted billions of dollars and made a "mockery" of federal laws regarding purchasing of goods and services, said Jan Frye, deputy assistant secretary for acquisition and logistics.

Illegal purchases have been made for pharmaceutical drugs and medical supplies, putting veterans at risk and exposing the agency to widespread "fraud, waste and abuse," Frye said.

"I can state without reservation that VA has and continues to waste millions of dollars by paying excessive prices for goods and services due to breaches of federal laws," Frye told the House Veterans Affairs subcommittee on oversight and investigations.

VA Secretary Robert McDonald said in a statement Thursday that he appreciates the issues Frye brought to light. Frye first raised concerns in a 35-page memo to McDonald earlier this year.

As Frye made clear in his March memo and in testimony Thursday, "there are many acquisition paths within the Veterans Health Administration" to provide health care for veterans, McDonald said. "It is important to note that the vast majority of the funding identified in the memo went to provide veterans needed care in the community" and was not wasted, McDonald said.

McDonald said he has directed the VA's inspector general to review Frye's allegations. Any findings of wrongdoing or evidence of harm to veterans will be shared with the Justice Department for possible criminal prosecution, McDonald said.

Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Colo., chairman of the oversight panel, said "weak internal controls" at the VA have resulted in "serious violations of procurement laws," mostly through a purchase-card program intended as a convenience for minor purchases of up to $3,000. Instead, VA employees have used the cards to buy billions of dollars' worth of medical supplies and drugs without contracts.

In one example cited by Frye, about $1.2 billion in prosthetics were bought using purchase cards without contracts during an 18-month period that ended last year.

In all, VA has understated its annual acquisition totals by at least $5 billion in each of the past five years, "due to our inexcusable failure to acquire a substantial quantity of goods and services in accordance with federal laws and regulations," Frye said.

Coffman called that total "a truly staggering amount," adding that the problem goes far beyond "paying a little more for needed supplies and services, as some apologists for VA have asserted."

Among other things, "purchase-card abuse invites cronyism and the directing of business to favored vendors, including those who may employ former VA officials," Coffman said. In addition, buying drugs and medical supplies without proper contracts "imperils patient safety" and exposes VA to legal liability, Coffman said.

Edward Murray, acting assistant secretary for management and the VA's top financial officer, said the agency has more than 25,000 purchase cards that were used 6.1 million times to make $3.7 billion in purchases last year. The purchase cards help the VA acquire needed supplies and drugs more quickly than through usual government procedures, Murray said.

Murray conceded that the program has "experienced challenges" but said the quicker delivery of prosthetics, hearing aids and other needed supplies outweigh those concerns. In response to concerns by Congress and the internal watchdogs, the VA reduced the number of purchase cards from 37,000 in 2011 to 25,515 last year, Murray said. About 23,000 VA employees use purchase cards.

Rep. Kathleen Rice, D-N.Y., called those totals "just enormous" and said they invited abuse. Rice, one of 10 children, said she and her siblings "never would have attended college" if her parents had given each child a credit card.

The VA has tightened controls over use of the cards in recent years and instituted mandatory training, Murray said.

 

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