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Senators expand probe into GSA spending

May. 18, 2012 - 11:55AM   |  
By SEAN REILLY   |   Comments

Two senators are seeking five years’ worth of data on budget, travel and conference spending by all 11 General Services Administration regional offices.

Sens. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., and Susan Collins, R-Maine, on Friday asked each office to furnish their annual travel spending from fiscal 2008 to 2012, a description of all conferences costing more than $10,000 during that time, and a list of all vendor contracts linked to such conferences.

The move follows last month’s release of an inspector general’s investigation into GSA’s 2010 Western Regions Conference in Las Vegas that cost $823,000 for some 300 staffers. The excessive spending detailed by Inspector General Brian Miller’s office led to the quick ouster of GSA’s top leadership, several congressional hearings, and a series of reforms to rein in travel and conference spending. In light of the problems revealed there, “we seek to understand whether there is a wider problem at GSA,” Lieberman and Collins wrote Friday.

A week earlier, the two senators asked Miller to significantly expand his investigations into possible waste, fraud and abuse at the agency. .

Lieberman and Collins specifically asked Miller to review:

• Other contracts for conferences held by GSA regional offices, and invoices related to those contracts. If an initial inquiry shows “extravagant or potentially illegal” conference spending, Miller should conduct a full investigation along the lines of the Western Regions Conference probe.

• A sample of other contracts issued on behalf of the regional offices to determine how often they violate procurement rules. The Western Regions Conference report shows that GSA officials repeatedly refused to seek multiple contracts bids, the senators wrote, thus failing to obtain “fair and reasonable prices for the government.”

• The use of government purchase cards by GSA employees. Two years ago, Daniel Voll, the then-deputy Public Buildings Service commissioner for Region 9, which includes Nevada,">pleaded guilty to embezzlement related to purchase card spending on luxury hotels, dining and spas. Given that his conviction failed to trigger adequate oversight of Region 9 by GSA headquarters, Lieberman and Collins questioned “whether GSA has sufficiently rigorous internal controls on purchase card procurements.”

Lieberman chairs the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, which oversees GSA; Collins is the panel’s top Republican.

The two also asked Miller for his views on possible improvements to GSA’s internal funding oversight. Allegations about the Western Regions Conference came to the IG’s attention because of a request by GSA’s deputy administrator, they wrote. “Are there changes to the organizational structure, investigative techniques, or audit protocols of your office that would have triggered earlier detection?” they asked. “Do you have recommendations on GSA’s organizational structure or its internal controls that would deter such waste and abuse?”">IG, lawmakers allege other waste by GSA's Neely (April 17)">GSA scandal referred to Justice for possible criminal charges (April 13)">GSA officials responded weakly at first to IG revelations (April 13)

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