GSA IG gets $10M budget bump to watch travel, conference costs

With an attaboy from House appropriators, the General Services Administration’s Office of the Inspector General could get a $10 million bump in funding for fiscal 2013.

The House Appropriations Committee has recommended a $68 million budget for the coming year. The office received $58 million in fiscal 2012 and the Obama administration requested only a slight increase of than less than $1 million from there.

The additional $10 million is for investigations and audits related to travel, conferences, employee reward programs, and other agency programs and activities, according to the committee’s report on the of the fiscal 2013 Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act.

“The willful disregard for federal procurement and travel laws by the very agency responsible for promulgating federal procurement and travel regulations is abhorrent,” the committee wrote.

The House committee approved the $21.15 billion spending bill June 20 and it next goes before the House for debate. Once passed, the Senate will take up the legislation.

In the report, the committee pats the IG on the back for its work in uncovering an extravagant and costly conference in 2010.

“The committee commends the Inspector General and his staff for their investigation into the 2010 Public Buildings Service Western Regions Conference and the ‘Hats Off’ employee reward program,” the report states.

In April, the IG released a scathing report on the Western Regions Conference held in a luxurious hotel in Las Vegas. The relatively small GSA employee-only conference cost $822,000.

Also in the report on the bill, the committee said it “will not tolerate a culture of federal employees putting their interest before the public interest.”

The bill would require GSA to apply current limitations on employee awards to fiscal 2013 funding. Agencies would have to limit their total spending on individual performance awards for members of the Senior Executive Service and senior-level and scientific and professional employees to no more than five percent of their aggregate salaries. Further, total spending on individual performance awards for employees not in those categories is limited to no more than one percent of their aggregate salaries.

Provisions in the legislation also put pressure on GSA to keep its conference spending in check. The GSA administrator would have to certify that the costs of conferences are appropriate and comply with all travel and conference laws and regulations.

The bill would prohibit agencies within this act from spending money on travel, conference or employee awards programs that are not authorized by law, regulation or executive order. Within three months after the bill becomes law, IGs and other agency oversight bodies would have to report to the appropriations committees on whether their agency has policies in place to ensure compliance with the laws.

The legislation provides annual funding for the Treasury Department, the Executive Office of the President, the Judiciary, the District of Columbia, the Small Business Administration, the General Services Administration, the Securities and Exchange Commission, and several other independent agencies.

The bill includes $21.15 billion in funding for these agencies, which is $376 million below last year’s level and $2 billion below the president’s request.

About the Author

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

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