After a 15-month inspection by the Office of Inspector General, an audit found that Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Chief Seema Verma was mismanaging taxpayer’s money, “putting the government at risk for waste and abuse.”
The report revealed that Seema Verma had mismanaged contracts with branding and communications consultants in the following ways:
- Use of private consultants for personal benefit
- Mismanagement of over $6 million in government contracts
- Questionable payouts, such as $150,000 for a cancelled bus tour and some possible double payments
- Use of taxpayer funds to hire consultant to boost her brand and personal image
- Use of outside consultants to write speeches, approve social media posts, and secure media appearances
- Outside consultants managing government employees
- Not utilizing the 200-person government communications officials on hand
The consulting contracts have since been halted.
The report stated that in essence, the contracts ultimately benefited Republican communications consultants.
Democrats call for Verma to resign
Now, a group of Democrats are even calling for the removal of Verma from her position as head of CMS. Eight Democrats issued a letter to President Trump, including Rep. Joe Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Rep Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.).
“She has defied rules, skirted regulations, violated trust, misled Congress, and she must be replaced,” the Democrats wrote. “For someone who claims they want to reduce CMS spending, including reining in fraud and abuse, Verma has spent an exorbitant amount of taxpayer dollars for personal use, all to the detriment of CMS beneficiaries and the public,” they added.
Rep. Pramila Jaypal (D-Wash.) has also been vocal about Verma, tweeting, “The Inspector General’s report only adds to what we’ve long known: Administrator Verma has been using government money for her personal benefit. This is the textbook definition of corruption, and we can’t allow it to go unchecked. She must resign or be removed.”
About Seema Verma
Verma is a close confidante of VP Mike Pence and a key member of the White House coronavirus task force. Other members of the coronavirus task force include Deborah Birx, Anthony Fauci, Steven Mnuchin, Alex Azar, Ben Carson, and Larry Kudlow.
One of the consultants contracted was Verma’s personal friend and former communications consultant in Indiana, Marcus Barlow. Another was Pam Stevens, a high-profile Washington communications expert.
Verma and HHS respond
Verma rejected the Inspector General’s report, saying that the claims were “unsubstantiated assumptions and incomplete analyses … Those contracts that we have in place are consistent with how the agency has used resources in the past, and they’re focused on promoting the work,” she told the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) agreed to review its contracts and follow the recommendations of the Inspector General, although they stated that no disciplinary action will be taken.