GSA acting administrator to review travel policies

Just a few days after General Services Administration chief Martha Johnson stepped down amid a scandal that rocked the agency and ousted two other officials, her new replacement vowed to examine the agency’s conference and travel policies.

In an April 3 letter addressed GSA employees, Acting Administrator Dan Tangherlini underlined the importance of staying focused on promoting efficiency and cost-savings following an inspector general report that revealed the agency’s lavish spending at a 2010 training event.

According to the IG, the conference cost more than $822,000, with expenses that included several "planning trips" and "test runs" in which GSA employees stayed at the luxury hotel where the event was held.

In addition to Johnson, Robert Peck, commissioner of the Public Buildings Service, and Johnson's senior adviser Stephen Leeds were fired. In her resignation letter, Johnson acknowledged the agency had made a “significant misstep” and said she was stepping down to allow GSA to move forward with a new leadership team.

“We cannot allow mistakes or misjudgments of a small number of individuals to slow our progress or take our focus from our goals,” Tangherlini wrote in his letter. “GSA’s business is to solve customers’ problems; we are acting quickly to address them.”

Tangherlini, a former Treasury Department official, said GSA is taking immediate measures to maintain customers’ confidence in the agency. Some of those steps include reviewing upcoming conferences that involve travel and spending of taxpayers’ funds, and canceling events that pertain only to internal staff. GSA will also assess how its current policies around conference and travel policies, and improve risk management, Tangherlini said.

About the Author

Camille Tuutti is a former FCW staff writer who covered federal oversight and the workforce.

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Reader comments

Sun, Apr 8, 2012 GS-1102 Department of Defense CO

SP Mayor's last point about who staffs the GSA Flagship booth are exactly right. Contracting Officers in the federal government want to talk to other CONTRACTING OFFICERS. But who does GSA provide at these events? "Business Development Specialists" who are good at giving sales pitches but who don't have a clue about contract clauses and acquisition policy/regulations. That is one of the big problems at GSA in general: the salesmen are calling the shots in acquisition programs and events when it should be the contracting officers. If my agency sent me to get training from GSA, I would boycott any contracting classes at EXPO not taught by warranted Contracting Officers. At the backwards GSA, the "sales" tail ends up wagging the contracting dog - - and we in the contracting community governmentwide end up paying the price.

Thu, Apr 5, 2012 SPMayor Summit Point, WV

I think the steps the Acting Administrator is taking are reasonable and understandable under the circumstances.I do hope the review does not lead him to believe the GSA EXPO should be cancelled. The EXPO plays an important role in providng a venue for Government [not just GSA] program and acquisition personnel to meet and exchange with a large vendor community dedicated to their needs.Additionally, EXPO provides a wealth of training to the collective body of Government and contractor personnel - training that is enhanced by the combined presence of all parties. In evaluating EXPO I would hope the Acting Administrator would review the plans for manning the GSA Flagship booth with the following comments in mind. Current plans are to staff the Flagship with personnel from the CAR organization.It would be more beneficial to the Government and vendor community if the Flagship were staffed with the Schedule and AAS COs.Both communities of interest find the EXPO an excellent opportunity to meet and discuss operation matters of concern. Such discussions are important to maintaining and improving the effectiveness of the GSA contract portfolio.

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