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GSA conference tab: $6.7M since October 2010

Aug. 8, 2012 - 12:30PM   |  
By ANDY MEDICI   |   Comments
General Services Administration Inspector General Brian Miller speaks at an interview in the GSA building in Washington on June 10, 2010.
General Services Administration Inspector General Brian Miller speaks at an interview in the GSA building in Washington on June 10, 2010. (STAFF)

The General Services Administration has spent more than $6.7 million on 77 conferences since October 2010, according to data from a preliminary GSA inspector general investigation obtained by Federal Times.

That includes $177,874 for the four-day 2010 Lease Reform Implementation Conference in Orlando, Fla. — about $2,372 per attendee, according to the data.

The now notorious $823,000 2010 Westerns Region Conference in Las Vegas cost about $2,689 per attendee. The spending for that event was detailed in an April IG report and referred to the Justice Department for possible criminal charges. It forced the resignation and removal of top leadership at the agency.

GSA spokesman Dan Cruz said the agency identified the 77 conferences during an ongoing internal review.

“We have provided this information to the OIG [Office of Inspector General] and additionally provided information to Congress and the public as issues are uncovered,” Cruz said in a statement.

GSA also gave out more than $30 million in previously unreported bonuses in fiscal 2011, according to data released at a House hearing last week. In all, GSA spent $44 million on employee bonuses last year.

Data uncovered by Washington’s WUSA-TV show that while GSA accounts for 1 percent of federal employees, it doled out 10 percent of the $439 million in bonus money given to federal employees last year.

Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, which has oversight of GSA, lambasted the agency at the hearing.

“This is outrageous. You have an entire agency of procurement experts working the system to take home 10 times more in bonuses than the rest of the government,” Mica said.

The original $13 million bonus figure provided to the media by the Office of Personnel Management was only a subset of GSA’s data, Cruz said. When WUSA later asked GSA for bonus data, the agency provided the figures showing $44 million in spending, he said.

GSA also gave the Senate a list of all bonuses going back to fiscal 2007, he said.

“This information has [been] and will continue to be available to the public. We will continue to be transparent and provide all information requests to Congress, the OIG and the public,” Cruz said.

Mica said that one GSA employee with an $84,000 salary earned $115,000 in overtime pay in fiscal 2011. He also said that Jeff Neely, a former regional commissioner for GSA’s Public Buildings Service, received $16,000 in bonuses in fiscal 2011 — almost twice as much as the previously reported $9,000. Neely was chiefly responsible for organizing the 2010 Western Regions Conference.

GSA Inspector General Brian Miller said at last week’s hearing he is investigating 77 conferences that have taken place since the beginning of fiscal 2011.

One is another case of wasteful spending, this time a one-day performance awards ceremony in 2010 by GSA’s Federal Acquisition Service that cost the agency $268,732. Spending on the Nov. 17, 2010, event included $20,578 for 4,000 drum sticks for a drum-playing exercise, $28,364 for 4,000 picture frames that included digital displays telling the time and temperature, and $7,697 for a reception that included a guitarist and violinist.

The Federal Acquisition Service manages the $38 billion Federal Supply Schedules program and other large contract programs. FAS Commissioner Steven Kempf began a 60-day medical leave July 29, according to an email he sent his staff.

Cruz said acting Administrator Dan Tangherlini has canceled 37 conferences and directed a review of every future conference to make sure it’s justified.

The agency had previously announced it was dramatically scaling back its bonus program for employees and freezing new hiring.

Executive bonuses will be cut 85 percent through fiscal 2013, and performance awards given by the administrator’s office are canceled for the rest of the year.

Tangherlini said in a blog post July 17 that an agency-wide review had uncovered a “high award rate” and “questions about whether performance goals are set at a high enough level through the agency.”

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