U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) officials flew to Hawaii and on other taxpayer-funded junkets, sometimes for a week or more just for brief federal building ribbon-cutting ceremonies, according to information from the GSA Inspector General.
The latest example of GSA spending follows the recent revelations about the agency blowing hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars on a lavish conference in Las Vegas, on giving themselves iPods, electronics and gift cards, and on cash bonuses for so handily wasting the taxpayers' money.
According to Inspector General's office, from an interview conducted with a GSA employee, several GSA officials flew to Hawaii for five to seven days in 2011 in order to attend an hour-long ribbon-cutting on space leased by the federal government. The employee interviewed stated this was not an isolated incident, and referenced another, longer scheduled trip to Hawaii that had not yet occurred.
"The Las Vegas conference was the tip of the iceberg, and every new example demonstrates the mind-boggling culture of waste and blatant disregard for the taxpayers' money within GSA," said U.S. Rep. John L. Mica (R-FL), Chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
"From what we're learning, GSA has a whole laundry list of instances where they were abusing taxpayer dollars," said U.S. Rep. Jeff Denham (R-CA), Chairman of the Economic Development, Public Buildings and Emergency Management Subcommittee. "They were using tax dollars as a slush fund to pay for lavish parties and exotic vacations. This goes a lot farther and a lot deeper than what we've seen. I share in the public outrage and am committed to finding answers and taking appropriate action so this never happens again."
Denham and Mica will lead a Congressional oversight hearing entitled "GSA's Squandering of Taxpayer Dollars: A Pattern of Mismanagement, Excess and Waste" at 8:30 a.m. next Tuesday, April 17, 2012 in 2167 Rayburn House Office Building.
The following is a relevant excerpt from the IG's August 2011 interview transcript (with names redacted):
GSA employee: ... And it was just one of those trips where, I think [redacted] left on a Saturday and returned on a Friday, you know, give or take a day here or a day there for a one-hour ribbon cutting ceremony on a lease space.
IG's office: That was the official reason?
GSA employee: That was the official reason, yeah.
GSA employee: You know, I just -- I heard stories, you know, going snorkeling in the morning and things like that...
IG's office: Okay. Now this last trip where five GS-15s flew over with [redacted] for this lease property ribbon-cutting for the FBI office, five to seven days, five 15s.
GSA employee: Oh, yeah, yeah, seven, yeah, five to seven. Yeah, I don't know what the other people's calendar's looked like.
IG's office: And they were I'm sure working hard the whole time.
GSA employee: I doubt it.
IG's office: How often do those happen?
GSA employee: The Hawaii things probably, it seems like they're fairly frequent. I mean, [redacted]'s got another one schedule [sic] for October.
IG's office: Okay.
GSA employee: And [redacted]'s going to be there for like ten days. It's a ribbon-cutting for the Hilo federal building, which is about -- it's an old post office and courthouse maybe.