Congress calls GSA officials in wake of scandal

Martha Johnson, the former administrator of the General Services Administration who resigned amid a major scandal about spending abuses related to a conference, will have her first chance next week to tell a panel of lawmakers just what happened in 2010.

Various committees have scheduled hearings on the overspending -- three in all, plus one more that will cover the agency's budget more generally.

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, scheduled a hearing for April 16 to address the incident, which involved $823,000 on a conference in Las Vegas. It begins at 1:30 p.m.

Issa announced the hearing titled, “Addressing GSA’s Culture of Wasteful Spending,” on April 9.

Along with Johnson, her chief of staff Michael Robertson, deputy commissioner of the Public Building Service (PBS) David Foley, and Region 9 commissioner Jeff Neely will testify before the committee. Johnson resigned just before an Inspector General's report detailed the overspending, firing PBS commissioner Robert Peck and her adviser Stephen Leeds. Foley was placed on administrative leave on April 8 for his role in the affair, according to the Washington Post. Neely is among four regional commissioners involved in planning the conference, and is also on administrative leave.

In addition, GSA IG Brian Miller will testify to shed more light on what his investigation uncovered.


Scheduled hearings for GSA officials

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee
April 16
1:30 p.m.

House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee
April 17
8:30 a.m.

Senate Environment and Public Works Committee
April 18
10 a.m.

Senate Appropriations Committee’s Financial Services and General Government Subcommittee
Hearing on GSA budget
Time and date not yet set

Issa’s hearing will not be the only chance GSA officials will have to share their side of the story. The following week is filled with congressional appearances.

On April 17, GSA officials will go before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. The hearing begins at 8:30 a.m.

The committee is expected to invite at least eight current and former GSA officials to testify:

  • Johnson.
  • Miller.
  • Foley.
  • Neely.
  • Peck. 
  • Public Building Event Planner Lisa Daniels.
  • GSA Chief Financial Officer Alison Doone.
  • Acting GSA Administrator Dan Tangherlini.
  • GSA Deputy Administrator Susan Brita.

The committee chairman lashed out at GSA over what the IG's report revealed.

“This outrageously lavish training conference, which was held on the taxpayer’s dime, is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the spending habits of GSA,” Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.), the committee’s chairman, said in a statement April 4.

Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Calif.), chairman of the committee’s Economic Development, Public Buildings and Emergency Management Subcommittee, said he’s prepared to request subpoenas, if necessary, to get explanations for what happened.

The next day, April 18, GSA officials will face Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), chairwoman of the Environmental and Public Works Committee, and her panel of senators at 10 a.m.

The committee wants to hear from the new acting administrator, who took Johnson’s place when she resigned, and Miller.

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said on Meet The Press April 8 that he would hold a hearing about GSA. Durbin, the chairman of the Appropriations Committee’s Financial Services and General Government Subcommittee, oversees GSA’s budget. A spokesman for the senator clarified to Roll Call that the subcommittee has had a hearing planned to talk to officials about the agency’s budget, and the subcommittee does not plan to hold a separate hearing on the scandal.

The subcommittee has not released a time or date for the hearing though.




About the Author

Matthew Weigelt is a freelance journalist who writes about acquisition and procurement.

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Government Cyber Insider tracks the technologies, policies, threats and emerging solutions that shape the cybersecurity landscape.


Reader comments

Fri, Apr 13, 2012 Fed Up Fed

When will there be investigations on Congressional spending abuses? You know. The ones that violate all other federal law but which they specifically exclude themselves from because they want to break a law they establish for everyone else?

Thu, Apr 12, 2012 Tengu

Were all those who participated fired? Is the $99 limit per day? Look at the last ten years of who came and went from Hawaii without doing much just for the pay calculation towards retirement. One to three year vacation - friends of friends. If no big reforms, then just get used to it people.

Wed, Apr 11, 2012

"Collective punishment" does not work! Those who were directly responsible for this should be prosecuted and convicted, their assets fined for the amounts wasted. Take the moneys out of their TSP account to reimburse the government for pay! But.... do not use this opportunity to punish ALL rank and file (which probably will happen anyway)

Wed, Apr 11, 2012

There have been some interesting points made in this discussion. To the Nice Try Virginia person I agree unethical uses of our tax money need to be delt with. With congress however it is kind of like the pot calling the kettle black if you know what I mean. We have a large government body who gets paid a lot of money, who consumes a lot of resources on personal activities, flying on government provided aircraft, getting ready to spend, as one person stated, a million dollars to get to the bottom of this whole thing. Personally I beleive that before the investigations are over the cost will be much greater. In the end, congress will then enact legislation designed to "prevent" this situation, adding additional cost to run the government through new monitoring requirements, and will be completed in time for November. Why not just prosecute under existing laws using less expensive legal assets?

Wed, Apr 11, 2012 Darian

Personalizing your response is unnecessarly and counterproductive. GSA has committed an aggregious display of both disrespect and fraud towards both the American taxpayer as well as their fellow government employees. Sadly they were able, if only for a brief moment, to enjoy the fruits of this act, while the rest of the federal employees will probably feel the reprisal for quite some time. Hopefully, the congressional hearings will prevail to some benefit to the justice system, and result in penance to those who deserve it!

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