House leaders staged another congressional hearing earlier this week following recent disclosures aboutdiscovered by the federal General Services Administration’s (GSA) Inspector General (IG). The IG uncovered inappropriate spending at a 2010 GSA conference in Las Vegas that cost approximately $823,000. The IG’s office also has found that GSA officials spent hundreds of thousands of dollars for their “Hat’s Off” employee award program that handed out, with minimal supervision, iPods and other expensive items. New details are emerging about other lavish spending, including a five-day GSA junket to Hawaii for a one-hour ribbon-cutting.
“GSA’s wasteful spending of millions on junkets, conferences, shady employee award programs, and bogus award ceremonies is just the tip of the iceberg of the agency’s abuse of the taxpayers,” said Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman John Mica, R-Fla. “This agency also appallingly wastes billions of the taxpayers’ hard-earned money through the habitual mismanagement of unused and underutilized federal property.”
Mica’s committee intends to shine a spotlight on GSA’s management of federal, in its role as the federal government’s landlord. “We smelled a rat last year, which is why the committee requested information from the GSA about the tripling of the Public Buildings Service Commissioner’s office administrative costs,” Mica said. “The agency continues to stonewall the committee’s request.”
“The problems at GSA are not limited to one conference or one region,” Mica added. “For years, this committee has been trying to force the agency to do its job and stop sitting on our assets. This agency is not only sitting on thousands of excess properties, but on many high-value but underutilized properties that if properly managed, could save taxpayers billions of dollars.”
The hearings in Congress are necessary to root out excessive spending and bring the nation’s deficit under control, says U.S. Senator Tom Coburn, R-Okla. All elected officials need to be vigilant and shine light on wasteful government practices, he says. In his new book, “The Debt Bomb,” Sen. Coburn tells elected officials, “Relentlessly expose wasteful spending, then target it for elimination. This seems obvious, but it is rarely done in Washington. There is no shortcut to doing the hard work of oversight and legislating.” The senator has a library of oversight reports on wasteful spending at federal agencies, including his annual “Wastebook” series.
Go here for details from House Oversight Committee Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa’s, R-Calif., hearings about GSA spending excesses. The GSA IG report has led to resignations and other turnover in GSA’s leadership.