Washington, D.C. - Yesterday, the Office of Inspector General of the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) released a report investigating a lavish GSA conference for the Services Administration Public Buildings Service 2010 Western Regions, which cost the American taxpayer $823,000, and led to the resignation of GSA Administrator Martha Johnson. In the wake of this report yesterday, Senator James Inhofe (R-Okla.), Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, the committee of jurisdiction over the GSA, called on Senator Boxer, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, to hold a hearing to get to the bottom of how this happened and how it can be prevented in the future. He has not yet received an answer from Senator Boxer.
"It is absolutely disgraceful that as Americans grapple with a struggling economy, we find out that the GSA is partying it up in Las Vegas and sending the $823,000 bill to the American taxpayer," Senator Inhofe said. "I'd like to ask those mind-readers GSA hired for their party on the taxpayer's dime: what on earth was GSA thinking? There are few things agencies can do that are more egregious. Not only did GSA waste hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars, the GSA IG found that the agency blatantly did not follow 'federal procurement laws nor its own policy on conference spending' which is a serious breach.
"As the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works is responsible for oversight of the GSA, we should hold a hearing to get to the bottom of this scandal and ensure that it never happens again. I would like to thank GSA Inspector General, Brian D. Miller, for conducting this important investigation. I also applaud Chairman Issa for announcing that the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee will hold a hearing and Chairman Mica for scheduling a hearing in the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. As Senator Lieberman, Chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, rightly said, this debacle is a 'stupid and infuriating waste of taxpayer dollars' and 'the people responsible should be held accountable.' A hearing in the Environment and Public Works Committee is an important step for us to join in a bipartisan fashion to hold the Obama administration accountable for its stewardship of taxpayer funds."
The GSA Report found:
GSA Spending on conference planning was excessive, wasteful, and in some cases impermissible
- Travel expenses for conference planning totaled $100,405.37 and catering costs totaled $30,000
GSA failed to follow contracting regulations in many of the procurements associated with the WRC and wasted taxpayer dollars
- Disclosed a competitor's proposal price to a favored contractor
- Awarded a $58,000 contract to a large business in violation of small-business set-asides
- Promised the hotel an additional $41,480 in catering charges in exchange for the "concession" of hotel honoring the governments lodging cost limit
- Provided free rooms to a contractor's employees even though the contract cost included lodging
- Disclosed to the team-building contractor the agency's maximum budget for one day of training, then agreeing to pay the contractor that amount ($75,000)
GSA incurred excessive and impermissible costs for food
- $146,537.05 on catered food and beverages (including $5,600 for three semi-private catered in-room parties and $44 per person daily breakfasts)
- $30,207.60, roughly $95 per person, for the closing reception and dinner
GSA incurred impermissible and questionable miscellaneous expenses
- Momentos for attendees, purchases of clothing for GSA employees, and tuxedo rentals
GSA's approach to the conference indicates that minimizing expenses was not a goal
- The PBS Region 9 Commissioner/Acting Regional Administrator instructed those planning the conference to make it "over the top" and to make it bigger and better than previous conferences. Several suggestions to minimize expenses were ignored