GSA's IG probes aren't over yet

The investigations by the General Services Administration’s inspector general aren’t over and a panel of senators has given the IG some more areas to probe.

In a letter, Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, and Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), its ranking member, told GSA IG Brian Miller and his staff to check out:

  • Conference and travel expenses that were from the regional offices. The infamous Western Regions Conference in 2010, the extravagant event that has attracted so much attention in recent weeks, was a regional conference. If the IG finds anything else suspicious, the committee asked him to conduct a full investigation.
  • A representative sampling of contracts related to activities at GSA regional offices to determine if procurement law violations happen frequently. At the Western Region Conference, GSA officials failed to abide by contracting rules of fair competition, among others. Similarly, the committee asked for recommendations on improving recruitment and training of GSA’s contracting officers.
  • The possible misuse of government purchase cards. After issues, such as an embezzlement conviction in 2010, the committee said it’s concerned about other abuses. They question whether GSA has appropriate internal controls to avoid future problems.
  • Advice on specific improvements to GSA’s oversight of its funds. Without a request from GSA’s Deputy Administrator Susan Brita, the IG would not have known about the Western Regions Conference, according to the senators.

The committee also asked that Miller keep the committee in the loop about how GSA is putting his recommendations in place and if there have been substantive changes as a result. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, made the same point to Miller in two recent hearings.

The letter from Lieberman and Collins is based on GSA’s Western Region Conference in 2010, which cost $822,000 for a stay in a luxury hotel in Las Vegas. The conference was for 300 GSA employees. GSA Administrator Martha Johnson resigned as a result, after firing two top advisers. Other officials were placed on administrative leave.

The IG’s report on the conference forced GSA to re-evaluate its spending on all conferences. Several events have been canceled because of the assessment.

The conference caused a stir in Congress. Several recent bills feature provisions to limit or reduce spending on conferences and travel, and the Office of Management and Budget issued its own set of new rules on May 11.

About the Author

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

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