The nearly one-million dollar conference held in Las Vegas in 2010 for General Services Administration (GSA) bureaucrats is only one egregious example of the agency's waste of billions in taxpayer dollars.
"GSA's wasteful spending of millions on junkets, conferences, shady employee award programs, and bogus award ceremonies is just the tip of the iceberg of the agency's abuse of the taxpayers," said Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman John L. Mica (R-FL). "This agency also appallingly wastes billions of the taxpayers' hard-earned money through the habitual mismanagement of unused and underutilized federal property."
"We learned today that GSA's culture of corruption and waste goes a lot farther and a lot deeper than just the Las Vegas conference," said Economic Development, Public Buildings and Emergency Management Subcommittee Chairman Jeff Denham (R-CA). Denham chaired today's Congressional subcommittee hearing into GSA waste. "There's clear indication that GSA, and the Western Region especially, have been abusing taxpayer dollars for years as their own personal slush fund to pay for lavish parties and exotic vacations."
Mica and Denham led a Congressional hearing today after recent revelations about waste uncovered by the GSA's Inspector General. GSA scandals include a 2010 conference in Las Vegas that cost the taxpayers approximately $823,000; hundreds of thousands of dollars for the "Hat's Off" employee award program that handed out, with little oversight, iPods, digital cameras, GPS devices, gift cards, and more for dubious reasons; a 2010 conference for GSA interns at a lavish Palm Springs resort; a five-day junket to Hawaii for a one-hour ribbon-cutting; and other abuses.
As the Inspector General's investigation continues, indications of additional GSA waste emerged during today's hearing. For example, the IG continues to investigate a 17-day junket to the South Pacific, trips to Hawaii, and a trip to Napa Valley that occurred just last month. Click here for a timeline of the IG's investigation and ongoing travel abuses, prepared by the Committee.
"We smelled a rat last year, which is why the Committee requested information from the GSA about the tripling of the Public Buildings Service Commissioner's office administrative costs," Mica said. "The agency continues to stonewall the Committee's request."
The culture of mismanagement at GSA also encompasses its mission to effectively manage the federal real estate portfolio. The federal government has thousands of underutilized and vacant assets costing $1.7 billion in annual operation costs.
"The problems at GSA are not limited to one conference or one region," Mica added. "For years, this Committee has been trying to force the agency to do its job and stop sitting on our assets. This agency is not only sitting on thousands of excess properties, but on many high-value but underutilized properties that if properly managed, could save taxpayers billions of dollars. The Committee has held multiple hearings in empty federal buildings, like the Old Post Office Annex and the Cotton Annex in Washington, to highlight this costly mismanagement."
Denham said, "This wasteful trend at GSA is too likely to continue. The agency plans to go ahead with building a $400 million project in Los Angeles, for a courthouse we don't need for judges we don't have."
At the close of today's hearing, Denham stated that he was looking at developing legislative measures to reign in GSA outrageous spending habits. "GSA has continued to operate under a culture of abuse with no consequences, and I share in the public outrage and am committed to finding answers and taking appropriate action so this never happens again," Denham said. Members of the Committee speculated that dismantling the agency, if the waste continues, may be an option.