Oversight

Five FAS employees put on leave over Crystal City event

money drain

GSA is on the hot seat again over allegations of wasteful conference spending. (Stock image)

The General Services Administration has placed five employees on administrative leave as the agency conducts further investigations into a 2010 awards program that reportedly cost the Federal Acquisition Service over $268,000.

A GSA spokesman confirmed to FCW that the unidentified employees were placed on administrative leave after the agency received an investigative report on May 23 from its Office of Inspector General. The event in question took place in Crystal City, Va., just south of the Pentagon.

The conference spending caused uproar on Capitol Hill almost a year ago when GSA inspector general Brian Miller described it to congressional lawmakers in a July, 2012 report. That report added more fuel to growing outrage over revelations concerning GSA’s profligate spending on other conferences, particularly a conference, also in 2010, held in Las Vegas that cost the agency $822,000 and featured mind readers, lavish parties and parody skits.

Last summer, Miller told lawmakers the FAS laid out a lot of cash for the Crystal City event, spending $20,000 on catering, $41,000 for travel for attendees and $20,000 with a third-party vendor on drumsticks used in a skit by attendees during the program.

A GSA spokesman said the agency has been aware of the excesses at the Crystal City conference since last year and had referred the matter to the OIG for investigation. The agency, said the spokesman, is also conducting further internal review based on the May 23 report.

“This awards ceremony is part of an already recognized pattern of misjudgment spanning several years and administrations,” said the spokesman in the statement. “Last week we received the FAS Awards Ceremony report from the OIG and have taken immediate action based on their findings. Under new GSA leadership, this event and type of spending is not tolerated. Over the past year, Acting Administrator [Dan] Tangherlini has instituted several reforms that have strengthened accountability, efficiency, and transparency throughout the agency. These new policies have led to greater oversight of travel, conference and award ceremony spending, including the procurement activities surrounding them. Additionally, GSA cancelled more than 50 conferences over the past year. These internal reforms, including cuts in travel and conference spending, have led to $73 million in savings."

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a staff writer covering acquisition, procurement and homeland security. Contact him at mrockwell@fcw.com or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.

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Reader comments

Fri, Jun 14, 2013

I've never seen morale at GSA as low as it is at this point. The new leadership is having issues as well and a lot of their personal and political friends at all levels have been brought in that don't appear to have the skills or knowledge to do the jobs that they have been assigned? This "low" point is presenting an opportunity to fix some things that may not be broke. Conversely, operations that were working well are now broke. The irony is that many senior GSA officials think everything is just fine and rarely seek employee feedback. On the other hand, many of our most talented employees are looking else where for employment because the long term future at GSA looks bleak to some? The most striking feature of the new leadership is to just cut costs, personnel - without replacements but there's not a well thought out plan and there's a reliance on high paid consultants to solve our problems. Most GSA employees are dedicated Americans who are passionate about their work but instead of rewarding them, they bear the burden of the greatest punishment by doing more and more work with little appreciate by senior leadership. Certainly, they care but are very disconnected to the real work that occurs on a daily basis. The most critical weakness is a lack of communications at all levels of the organization. There's a great reliance on technology to fill these gaps with salesforce.com "chatter groups" but real leadership at the supervisory level is what we need right now to "right this big ship".

Fri, Jun 14, 2013

It is clear these 5 employees lacked good judgement. Seems like there were no management controls for budget approvals. The new Administrator has initiated sweeping changes to consolidate all the budget related functions under the CFO. The new commissioner is restructuring FAS. These two actions should prevent incompetent, corrupt folks within FAS who currently hold key management positions from approving and managing funds. In future all financial functions should be managed by the CFO and not FAS.

Thu, Jun 13, 2013

The press doesn't always have the most detailed information, and the IG reports certainly don't take into account the thought processes behind these "scandalous" events. There's no reason to assume that any of these 5 employees deserve to be fired. In reality, it is not likely that any of these folks had ill intentions or went outside of GSA policy. GSA used to be highly motivated to engage and advance its workforce, and now it's stuck in a rut of continuous data calls, investigations, and organizational changes that frustrate and disengage its most important resource - its people. What, then, should GSA, and any federal agency, do to motivate employees and show appreciation every now and then? It seems that in this new budget environment, everyone forgets the civil servant. No pay raises? Check. No training or advanced education? Check. Jump through hurdles to get the job done? Check. It's a slap in the face to honest, hard-working employees that thought federal employment would actually be more fulfilling than the private sector.

Wed, Jun 12, 2013

Kudos to the new Administrator and the new FAS commissioner for cleaning house. These five employees should be fired. The old FAS culture of protecting friends and relatives should no longer be tolerated. Several close associates of the five corrupt employees are still employed by FAS and appointed to key management positions. A follow on audit should be conducted by the IG on hiring practices within FAS.

Sun, Jun 9, 2013

LOL, anytime you have congress mad at spending, you know it's all theater. Good job GSA, keep congress mad, the more mad they get, the smaller their single-diget approval rating gets. GSA is my new hero. Party-on GSA folks. Have fun!

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