VA Reports Detail Misconduct By IT Officials

VA Reports Detail Misconduct By IT Officials
VA Reports Detail Misconduct By IT Officials 

By J. Nicholas Hoover
August 21, 2009 

Two reports issued by the inspector general of the Department of 
Veterans Affairs point to a range of misconduct in the agency's IT 
department in recent years, including abuse of authority, prohibited 
hiring practices, and favors gained as a result of a personal 
relationship involving the agency's former CIO and an IT security 
official reporting to him.

Following an internal investigation, the inspector general said it 
substantiated that Katherine Adair Martinez, the agency's deputy 
assistant secretary for information protection and risk management, 
engaged in prohibited personnel practices when she influenced a VA 
contractor to hire a personal acquaintance and again later when that 
acquaintance was hired by the VA. Martinez was also found to have taken 
advantage of "an inappropriate personal relationship" with Howard, her 
supervisor, to relocate her office to Florida. Howard left the VA in 
January 2009; Martinez still works there.

According to one of the inspector general's reports, following Martinez' 
relocation to Florida in July 2008, the VA spent $37,000 on Martinez' 
frequent trips to and from Washington, ostensibly for job-related tasks. 
However, the inspector general determined that those tasks could have 
been accomplished from Florida, and that Martinez and Howard continued 
their personal relationship during that time.

According to the report, Martinez misused her position for the personal 
gain of Laura Nash, a friend who was hired for an identity security 
project despite little related experience. Nash was hired by contractor 
Engineering Systems Solutions in September 2006 as the project lead on a 
five-year, multi-million dollar contract to help the VA protect 
personally identifiable information, despite having taken only one 
computer class in college.


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