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Review of Allegations of Improper Maintenance at VA’s Houston National Cemetery

Report Information

Issue Date
Report Number
21-03325-86
VISN
State
District
VA Office
National Cemetery Administration (NCA)
Report Author
Office of Audits and Evaluations
Report Type
Review
Report Topic
Maintenance and Construction
Major Management Challenges
Leadership and Governance
Recommendations
2
Questioned Costs
$0
Better Use of Funds
$0
Congressionally Mandated
No

Summary

Summary
The US Office of Special Counsel referred a whistleblower disclosure to VA on July 19, 2021. The whistleblower alleged that the Houston National Cemetery’s equipment, headstones, gravesites, and other cemetery features were not maintained as required. VA referred the disclosure to the VA Office of Inspector General (OIG) to assess these allegations. Although the Houston National Cemetery was generally well maintained, the OIG substantiated some of the whistleblower’s allegations. Four pieces of motorized equipment were not maintained in accordance with National Cemetery Administration standards because the cemetery staff stopped conducting routine preventive maintenance checks during the COVID-19 pandemic. Some gravesites were also improperly maintained, and one water feature had a pump that was not working. None of the substantiated allegations at the Houston National Cemetery were pervasive issues, and cemetery staff were working to fix all of them. The OIG recommended that the cemetery director revise the equipment policy to ensure that routine activities, such as preventive maintenance checks, are resumed after natural disasters or emergencies and provide an action plan to repair the gravesites that the OIG team identified as improperly maintained. VA concurred with the recommendations and recognizes that maintenance of cemetery equipment and gravesites is essential to honor veterans and their eligible family members with lasting tributes commemorating their service and sacrifices. VA provided sufficient evidence to close the first recommendation as implemented and has taken action on the second, which will be closed when additional documentation has been received.

Open Recommendation Image, SquareOpenClosed and Implemented Recommendation Image, CheckmarkClosed-ImplementedNot Implemented Recommendation Image, X character'Closed-Not Implemented
No. 1
Closed and Implemented Recommendation Image, Checkmark
to National Cemetery Administration (NCA)
Revise the equipment policy to include provisions and timelines to resume routine activities, such as required preventive maintenance checks, which could be affected by natural disasters or emergencies, such as the COVID 19 pandemic.
No. 2
Closed and Implemented Recommendation Image, Checkmark
to National Cemetery Administration (NCA)
Provide an action plan and timeline to repair the headstones or sod in the 65 gravesites the team identified.