House panel to probe ‘outrageous’ GSA spending
A House committee is turning its eye to the General Services Administration’s “outrageous” spending habits after news emerged that in addition to footing an $822,000 conference bill, the agency also spent $200,000 on an employee-award program.
“Over the course of the past few days, some of the outrageous spending habits of the GSA have surfaced, and it is unbelievable,” said Rep. John L. Mica (R-Fla.) in an April 5 statement.
“First, it was reported that the agency spent $800,000 on a lavish training conference in Las Vegas, and yesterday we learned of an equally over-the-top employee award program that handed out $200,000 worth of taxpayer funded iPods, electronics, and gift cards for questionable reasons at best,” he continued.
Mica chairs the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Calif.), chairman of the committee's subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings and Emergency Management, plans to hold a hearing April 19 on the subject of GSA's spending.
The scandal began unraveling earlier this week when an inspector general's report lambasted a frivolous GSA training event held in October 2010 in Las Vegas. Administrator Martha Johnson handed in her resignation right before the report was released, after firing two other officials on April 2.
In an April 5 letter to GSA IG Brian Miller, Mica and Denham requested internal reports on the previously undisclosed “Hats Off" program.
“The arrogance of giving away a grab bag of free stuff to its employees instead of effectively managing our federal properties is a disgrace,” Denham said in a separate statement. “There must be serious consequences for this type of blatant waste of taxpayer dollars, and the committee intends to hold those responsible fully accountable."
Denham's comments came on the same day as the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, headed by Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), released a video of an award ceremony held at the Las Vegas conference. In the clip, a GSA employee sings jokingly about how his life would be as an agency commissioner and how he would never get investigated for excessive spending.
In the fallout of the GSA shakeup, Dan Tangherlini, formerly a Treasury Department official, stepped in as acting administrator. Tangherlini wrote in a letter to employees that the agency will now evaluate its current policies around conference and travel policies, and improve risk management.
Camille Tuutti is a former FCW staff writer who covered federal oversight and the workforce.