GSA Spends Nearly $1 Million in Taxpayer Dollars on Extravagant “Convention”
April 24, 2012
Recently, it was revealed through an Inspector General’s report thatemployees of the General Services Administration (GSA) spent $822,000 on alavish “convention” in Las Vegas. The agency handles federal government logistics andoperations, including guidelines for the entire federal government onprocurement. Details of excessive spending in the planning and conducting ofthe conference brought the resignation of GSA Administrator MarthaJohnson and several other officials. The event held in the fall of 2012 was attended byabout 300 employees and lasted four days.
The Inspector General reportfound taxpayer money was spent on a mindreader, a clown, a $75,000 team buildingexercise, and many other lavish perks that GSA employees were caught braggingabout on camera. Details on expenses included $58,808for audio visual services and $147,000 for airfare. Employees were treated to a$100-plusper-person reception that featured 400 pieces of $4.75 Petit Beef Wellington,400 Mini Monte Cristo Sandwiches at $5 each and 1,000 sushi rolls for $7apiece. The total cost of catered food and beverages was $146,527. In additionan awards ceremony was held where more than $6,000 wasspent on commemorative coins extolling their work on the President’s failedeconomic stimulus program.
In addition,congressional investigators have found that the GSA may have violated itsemployee gift limit with rewards of iPods, digital cameras and otherelectronics. These were awarded in an employee incentive program dating backseveral years known as the “Hats Off Store” that spent nearly $500,000 on giftsthat vastly exceeded its $99-per-gift limit. Over 100 these iPods areunaccounted for. The investigators have said that much like the convention, thatthe accounting for the gifts as well as the justification for giving them, waslacking or inconsistent.
With all of this outrageousand lavish spending of taxpayers’ dollars occurring with seemingly littleoversight, it’s right that the president has asked for and accepted theresignation of top officials at GSA. However, more must be done to hold thoseindividuals and other who may have violated government rules, responsible.
House Republicans haveheld hearings before the Committee on Transportation to look into theseallegations. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman DarrellIssa (R-Calif.), has announced that he will hold his own hearing on April 16.In addition, the Senate, separate transportation and appropriations panels havescheduled back-to-back hearings for April 18.
It’s a shame that allof this interest in wasteful unchecked spending by government bureaucratshasn’t come sooner. CaptiolWatch has repeatedly discussed a non-partisan Government Accountability Office (GAO)Report which showed spending and government waste in excess of tens of billionsof dollars. Congress’ investigative arm had identified 81 different areas wherethe government double-spends or has overlapping programs. Despite Congressionalhearings and media reports, the GAO has found that that waste continues to thisday. President Obama and Congress have solved just four of them.
This moment presents a timewhere both sides of the aisle can come together on the issue of wasted taxdollars. CapitolWatch urges Americans to contact their Members of Congress andencourage them to look at more than just the GSA convention in scrutinizing howfunds are spent and accounted for.