GSA's new chief says fiasco 'cuts to heart' of mission

In a new video message from the General Services Administration, the acting chief said the actions that led to the recent scandal “cut to the heart of what we do and who we are” as an agency

Dan Tangherlini, acting GSA administrator, said in the 3-minute video on The GSA Blog GSA’s mission is saving the taxpayer money by giving agencies avenues to work more efficiently and becoming more effective in their operations.

However, the now-infamous Western Regions Conference, held in Las Vegas in 2010, did just the opposite. GSA officials committed a number of flagrant violations of contracting rules and made other decisions that were questionable at best, all documented in an Inspector General report. Administrator Martha Johnson resigned, two other officials were fired and several more are on administrative leave as the aftermath of the scandal unwinds.

“The actions of those responsible cut to the heart of what we do and who we are. They undermine both our mission, and the trust we have developed with our customers, including the most important customer of all, the American public,” Tangherlini said in the video. “There were violations of travel rules, acquisition rules, and good conduct. Just as importantly, those responsible violated rules of common sense, the spirit of public service and the trust that America’s taxpayers have placed in all of us."

He also laid out what the agency is doing now as a result of the fiasco.

  • A complete agency-wide review of all conferences and events.
  • An evaluation of the way in which officials use agency resources
  • Identify ways to be more efficient and effective stewards of taxpayer dollars.
  • Regional “Hats Off Stores,” which were for recognizing employees, have been closed. Operations have been suspended until GSA does a complete top-down review of its spending.

“GSA employees understand that serving our customers well is reward enough,” he added.

In a letter to GSA employees sent April 3, Tangherlini said officials would review upcoming conferences that involve travel and spending of taxpayers’ funds, and canceling events that pertain only to internal staff. GSA will also assess its current policies related to conference and travel policies, and improve risk management.

The scandal put GSA in the spotlight over the past weeks, and that attention won't go away for a while. Tangherlini and a number of current and former GSA officials, will testify before three congressional committees next week.

In the video, Tangherlini said agency employees are “shocked and deeply disappointed by these indefensible actions.”

Tangherlini was called over from the Treasury Department to take the helm temporarily at GSA in the wake of Johnson’s resignation.

About the Author

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

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