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More GSA buzz on the holiday party circuit

Back on the holiday party circuit on Saturday, this time at a remarkable 12th Annual IT Holiday Reception hosted by former ITAA head Harris Miller Deborah Kahn along with Bruce McConnell and Margaret Anderson of Government Futures and Jim Kane and Olga Navia.

There were two big buzz items, both involving GSA. One was the story that ran on the front page of the Washington Post on Saturday:

GSA Chief Seeks to Cut Budget For Audits [WP, 12.4.2006]
Contract Oversight Would Be Reduced
By Scott Higham and Robert O'Harrow Jr.
The new chief of the U.S. General Services Administration is trying to limit the ability of the agency's inspector general to audit contracts for fraud or waste and has said oversight efforts are intimidating the workforce, according to government documents and interviews.


The other was the developing story about GSA seeking to reorganize GSA's Office of Governmentwide Policy so that it is a part of the Office of Congressional and Intergovernmental Affairs.

The WP story Saturday was interesting. I was a bit ticked off at myself because I had heard about this earlier in the year and... well, it just got lost.

Doan responded this morning calling it a mostly budget tiff. But it seems that there is more there. There is a certain sense these days that, after slashing the procurement workforce, the government has increased the number of auditors. So the government is spending all sorts of time and effort to second guess the work that has been done rather than on investing in the people and the training for those people who can do it right in the first place.

I don't know if that is true at GSA. I know that industry believes that GSA's "Get It Right" program was... well, wrong. They generally believe it was tantamount to using a wreaking ball to catch a fly, ie, the problem was not as big or as bad as they made it out to be. And there is a certain degree of GSA second guessing itself these days in part out of fear of the IG.

But I have also heard from some people who know the GSA IG, Brian Miller, and they say he is a good guy.

And then there is this part of the WP story:

Doan compared Miller and his staff to terrorists, according to a copy of the notes obtained by The Washington Post.

"There are two kinds of terrorism in the US: the external kind; and, internally, the IGs have terrorized the Regional Administrators," Doan said, according to the notes.

Through a spokesman, Doan said she respects the inspector general's role and is not doing anything to undercut his independence. She also denied that she had referred to Miller, a former terrorism prosecutor, or his staff as terrorists.

"She's trying to reduce wasteful spending," said GSA spokesman David Bethel. "Just like any other office within GSA, she has asked the OIG to live within his budget, and she's hopeful that the IG is going to embrace that concept. She is not singling him out for this attention. She's not challenging the IG's independence. This is about fiscal discipline and reducing wasteful spending and creating a business environment that can be embraced by everyone.


Terrorists?

And with Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) poised to take the helm of the House Government Reform Committee, it isn't a great time to be saying that your agency is cutting oversight. I don't think that is what GSA is doing, but... perceptions.

Using the Technorati blog search site, you can see what other bloggers are saying about this story.

The other story is the Doan's efforts to reorganize GSA. As they say on the cable news networks, this is a developing story because it has not been finalized yet. As I mentioned last week, Doan has proposed making OGP a part of GSA's Office of Congressional and Intergovernmental Affairs. The general take so far is that this is a terrible idea and unnecessary. Apparently OGP gets a standing budget allocation, so the move would give Doan the ability to move money around within the agency. And it is interesting because you can hardly find former OGP administrator John Sindelar's name on the GSA Web site these days.

This move seems to be a real politicization of government policy issues and just seems to make no sense to me, but I'd be happy to hear more.

Posted by Christopher Dorobek on Dec 04, 2006 at 12:15 PM


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