Report Summary

Title: Review of Allegation of Underutilized MRI Scanner in Waco, Texas
Report Number: 15-01887-282 Download
Issue Date: 6/23/2016
City/State: Temple, TX
VA Office: Veterans Health Administration (VHA)
Report Author: Office of Audits and Evaluations
Report Type: Audit
Release Type: Unrestricted

The Office of Inspector General received a Hotline allegation that a mobile Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scanner was underutilized, and represents a waste of taxpayers’ funds. The Veterans Health Administration (VHA) purchased the scanner in 2007 for $2.9 million for the Center of Excellence (COE) for Research on Returning War Veterans, Waco, TX. According to the allegation, maintenance on the machine costs over $200,000 annually. We substantiated the allegation the MRI scanner was underutilized, representing a waste of taxpayers’ funds. VHA paid approximately $2.9 million for the MRI scanner and annual maintenance costs of approximately $200,000. We determined the MRI scanner was not used for approximately 64 of 81 months from July 2008 through March 2015. This occurred because: COE leadership did not anticipate the extent to which environmental conditions affected MRI scanner images; The scanner required evaluation, software upgrades and repairs to accomplish the type of research being conducted; COE did not have staff qualified to operate the scanner or approved research projects. COE demonstrated poor stewardship of the approximately $2.9 million purchase cost of the MRI scanner and approximately $1.1 million in maintenance costs during the 64 months it was not used. The COE began using the scanner again in April 2015, and we confirmed the COE was still using the scanner as of February 2016. Since the issues that delayed the COE from using the MRI scanner were resolved, we did not make any recommendations. The Under Secretary for Health concurred with our conclusions concerning the MRI machine. The Under Secretary’s response also indicated top researchers have joined VA and relocated to Waco to do research using the device. The Under Secretary’s response also noted the MRI was upgraded and that the new leadership has revitalized the program and put the Center on a productive pathway.