NCUA dribbles out another investigation report on spending by board chairman, COS

Additional details from Office of Inspector General (OIG) investigations of reportedly lavish spending on travel, meal and alcohol expenditures by the agency’s board chairman and chief of staff have been posted on the website of the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA).

This most recent report, regarding expenditures by agency Chief of Staff Sarah Vega, is similar to one issued recently regarding board Chairman J. Mark McWatters. Among the numerous details highlighted are air fares of $11,484 and $11,974 for Vega and McWatters, respectively, for a trip to Vienna, Austria, when a similar trip was made by another agency board member’s staffer at a cost of $1,542. The reports also devote a good deal of ink on expenditures for alcohol, which are not supposed to be reimbursed but were (according to the OIG report); and other issues regarding missing details related to who attended some of the dinners paid for by the agency.

Regarding the air fares, the OIG report says agency policy is that non-bargaining unit employees, including board members and senior policy advisors, may fly business or first class only under limited circumstances, including: for business class, when a trip is outside the continental United States; and for first class, when less expensive air fare is unavailable for the time of travel.

In both investigation reports, the OIG notes discussion with Michael McNeill, director of financial controls within the agency’s Office of Chief Financial Officer, who reportedly noted that “some expenditures are ridiculous, such as a $10,000 airfare.” The OIG added, “McNeill said it may be allowable by policy and not illegal, but such expenditures will show up on General Services Administration exception reports.”

The investigations were spurred by an anonymous complaint in 2017; the reports were completed in May and June 2018.

OIG Report of Investigation (17-CO-06; Vega)

OIG Report of Investigation (18-01; McWatters)

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