(Remarks as prepared for delivery)
The latest misconduct at the General Services Administration (GSA) makes me cringe for the taxpayers who expect every agency in their government to fulfill their mission with integrity. And it makes me cringe that the good people at GSA who work hard every day have been humiliated by a few bad actors.
To those who betrayed the public trust, let me be clear -- the party is over. It’s over because of GSA Inspector General (IG) Brian Miller, who is a bipartisan appointee of President George W. Bush and President Obama, and GSA Deputy Administrator Susan Brita, an Obama appointee who blew the whistle and took the matter to the IG.
The party is over because the new Acting Administrator of GSA, Mr. Daniel Tangherlini, is a no-nonsense leader from the U.S. Department of the Treasury who aims to clean up the mess.
This is not the first episode of misconduct at GSA.
The Carter administration uncovered one in 1978 and 1979, when a nationwide investigation into longstanding corruption resulted in prosecutions for bribery and fraud and protections for whistleblowers in the agency.
There was more misconduct during the Bush administration. The first occurred when the Chief of Staff to the GSA Administrator traveled with Jack Abramoff to Scotland, even though Mr. Abramoff had business before the GSA. In 2011, this Chief of Staff went to prison.
In 2006, the Bush-appointed GSA Administrator steered a contract to a friend; and in 2007, she organized a political call with thirty appointees to help their “friends” win their elections, which violated the Hatch Act. The Administrator repeatedly clashed with the Inspector General, in one report comparing his enforcement efforts to “terrorism.” She resigned in 2008.
And now here we go again in 2012 -- this time involving what clearly looks like waste, fraud, abuse, and possible criminal violations. The most recent example of misconduct involves a few individuals who sought personal gain and exhibited scorn toward the public and toward our President.
There must be justice and restitution for this, and those who are responsible for the outrageous conduct and who violated the public trust must be held accountable.
The GSA Administrator resigned and she should have. Two of her aides were fired and they should have been. Others are on administrative leave awaiting further action.
The Acting Administrator and the IG at GSA are working together to ensure that anyone with more information comes forward.
Checks and balances on the regional offices have been put in place, many conferences have been stopped or reduced in scope, and GSA estimates that nearly a million dollars have been saved.
Regional Financial Officers must report to the Chief Financial Officer, awards programs have been shut down, and reimbursements are being demanded from specific employees.
The outrageous behavior of a few irresponsible, unethical, and perhaps law-breaking individuals are overshadowing GSA’s achievements following President Obama’s cost-savings directives focused on energy efficiency, reduced computing costs, and disposal of unneeded federal property.
GSA offers critical services to all federal agencies, but it is time to stop this series of failings that have occurred over four decades and three administrations.
It is time to send the clearest of signals that this type of conduct and betrayal of public trust will not be tolerated. Anyone in any agency who puts their own interests above the country’s interest will suffer the consequences.
I want to recognize the efforts to shine a light on the misconduct that took place at GSA. Mr. Miller, Mr. Tangherlini, thank you for taking Deputy Administrator Susan Brita’s concerns seriously and following through on your public trust.
This committee will support you and encourage you to clean house at GSA.
I now yield to Senator Inhofe, the Ranking Member, for his opening statement.