Oversight

Five FAS employees put on leave over Crystal City event

money drain

GSA is on the hot seat again over allegations of wasteful conference spending. (Stock image)

The General Services Administration has placed five employees on administrative leave as the agency conducts further investigations into a 2010 awards program that reportedly cost the Federal Acquisition Service over $268,000.

A GSA spokesman confirmed to FCW that the unidentified employees were placed on administrative leave after the agency received an investigative report on May 23 from its Office of Inspector General. The event in question took place in Crystal City, Va., just south of the Pentagon.

The conference spending caused uproar on Capitol Hill almost a year ago when GSA inspector general Brian Miller described it to congressional lawmakers in a July, 2012 report. That report added more fuel to growing outrage over revelations concerning GSA’s profligate spending on other conferences, particularly a conference, also in 2010, held in Las Vegas that cost the agency $822,000 and featured mind readers, lavish parties and parody skits.

Last summer, Miller told lawmakers the FAS laid out a lot of cash for the Crystal City event, spending $20,000 on catering, $41,000 for travel for attendees and $20,000 with a third-party vendor on drumsticks used in a skit by attendees during the program.

A GSA spokesman said the agency has been aware of the excesses at the Crystal City conference since last year and had referred the matter to the OIG for investigation. The agency, said the spokesman, is also conducting further internal review based on the May 23 report.

“This awards ceremony is part of an already recognized pattern of misjudgment spanning several years and administrations,” said the spokesman in the statement. “Last week we received the FAS Awards Ceremony report from the OIG and have taken immediate action based on their findings. Under new GSA leadership, this event and type of spending is not tolerated. Over the past year, Acting Administrator [Dan] Tangherlini has instituted several reforms that have strengthened accountability, efficiency, and transparency throughout the agency. These new policies have led to greater oversight of travel, conference and award ceremony spending, including the procurement activities surrounding them. Additionally, GSA cancelled more than 50 conferences over the past year. These internal reforms, including cuts in travel and conference spending, have led to $73 million in savings."

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a senior staff writer at FCW, whose beat focuses on acquisition, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, tele.com magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at mrockwell@fcw.com or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


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