VA Says Some Employees Accepted Favors From Drug Firm
WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Veterans Administration said Monday that some of its employees accepted gifts, speaking fees and other favors from a pharmaceutical company doing business with the agency.
Spokeswoman Donna St. John said the VA inspector general’s office had determined that favors were accepted by 75 to 100 employees from Smith Kline & French Laboratories of Philadelphia.
Smith Kline spokesman Alan Wachter said his company has been cooperating with the VA investigation for more than a year. He said Smith Kline’s actions had been ″consistent with traditional practices and applicable law.″
Ms. St. John said the investigation focused on allegations that employees had accepted meals, entertainment, theater tickets and other gifts from the company, and accepted fees for giving speeches without reporting them. She refused to say how much money was involved.
″Some of these amounts are modest. Some are substantial,″ she said.
The VA inspector general’s office began the investigation in the spring of 1984, she said.
She said each case is being reviewed individually and that the VA intends to impose penalties ranging from dismissal to suspension and formal admonishments. In minor cases, she said, the only action may be counseling for the employee.
The VA refused to disclose any employee names or to describe the jobs of those involved. All are employees of the VA’s department of medicine and surgery.
U.S. Medicine, a bimonthly newspaper for government physicians, reported that the agency had begun removing some employees from hospital committees because of the inquiry. It said the investigation began after a tip was received from a Smith Kline employee.
In some cases employees may have received gifts and fees totaling as much as $60,000 over two or three years, The New York Times said.
The VA, which operates the nation’s largest medical system, buys drugs on a regular basis from Smith Kline.
″Our activities ahve been open, above board and consistent with traditional practices and applicable law,″ Wachter said in a statement.
He said that it was up to the VA to address questions about the propriety of its employees’ actions.
Smith Kline & French Laboratories is a division of Smith Kline Beckman Corp.