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Lawmakers push spate of new bills in response to GSA scandal

Apr. 19, 2012 - 06:00AM   |  
By ANDY MEDICI   |   Comments
Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., is one of the lawmakers pushing new legistlation in the wake of the GSA spending scandal. She said Wednesday that she will introduce a bill to rein in conference spending and require more detailed reporting by agencies.
Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., is one of the lawmakers pushing new legistlation in the wake of the GSA spending scandal. She said Wednesday that she will introduce a bill to rein in conference spending and require more detailed reporting by agencies. (Alex Wong / Getty Images)

Lawmakers are already pushing for a variety of new laws to check excessive government spending in response to the spending scandal that has rocked the General Services Administration.

Congressional hearings this week and an earlier report by the agency's inspector general, Brian Miller, revealed numerous cases of extravagant spending and mismanagement by senior GSA officials. The April 2 release of Miller's report on GSA's excessive spending at http://www.federaltimes.com/article/20120416/DEPARTMENTS07/204160306/1001">an $822,000 conference in Las Vegas in 2010 prompted the resignation of the agency's top official, Martha Johnson, and the firing of two of her top deputies: Public Buildings Commissioner Bob Peck and Johnson's senior counsel, Stephen Leeds. Another 10 senior managers and employees were place on administrative leave, and Miller has forwarded his findings to the Justice Department for possible criminal charges.

Among the new measures:

Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., said Wednesday she will introduce a bill to rein in conference spending and require more detailed reporting by agencies. The Accountability in Government Act would cap spending on any one conference at $200,000 unless approved by the head of an agency. The bill also would require annual reports on all conference spending and deny bonuses to any employee under investigation by an inspector general.

Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., plans to introduce legislation soon to cut federal conference spending by 20 percent from 2010 levels as well as require agencies to report four times a year on their conference activities and spending, according to his staff. The reports would include the costs of each conference, their locations and justifications for those locations. The senator will try to attach the measure to a pending postal reform bill, a Coburn staffer said.

Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, posted online Wednesday a bill that would bring more accountability to federal spending by making spending data more accurate, complete and transparent.

"There is no question that the infrastructure and reporting standards needed to ‘follow-the-money' has been lacking," Issa said in a statement Wednesday. "The GSA travel and conference spending scandal is a perfect case study."

The bill, called the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act) is a revised version of a bill Issa introduced last year.

Meanwhile, the Defense Department is reviewing all its conferences over the last two years and will submit a report to Deputy Secretary Ashton Carter on May 11, said the Pentagon's Deputy Chief Management Officer Elizabeth McGrath at a Wednesday hearing. She added that the department is confident "that the proper controls are in place so things like this do not happen."

Related reading

http://www.federaltimes.com/article/20120418/DEPARTMENTS07/204180302/1001">Lawmakers call for sweeping reforms at GSA (April 18)

http://www.federaltimes.com/article/20120417/DEPARTMENTS07/204170306/1001">IG, lawmakers allege other waste by GSA's Neely (April 17)

http://www.federaltimes.com/article/20120416/DEPARTMENTS07/204160306/1001">GSA calls on officials to repay party expenses (April 17)

http://www.federaltimes.com/article/20120413/DEPARTMENTS07/204130302/1001">GSA scandal referred to Justice for possible criminal charges (April 13)

http://www.federaltimes.com/article/20120413/DEPARTMENTS07/204130301/1013/CONGRESS">GSA officials responded weakly at first to IG revelations (April 13)

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