Both the General Services Administration Inspector General (GSA IG) and the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee are launching a new investigation into another abuse of the taxpayers by the GSA, this time a one-day awards ceremony held in Washington, DC for which the agency blew nearly $270,000.
"Preliminary information we have received from the Inspector General indicates this GSA mega-waste conference held on November 17, 2010 cost taxpayers more than a quarter of a million dollars and rivals the lavish conference in Las Vegas a month earlier," said U.S. Rep. John L. Mica (R-FL), Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, which exercises oversight of the GSA.
"House Transportation Committee staff are investigating new details that have emerged today about extravagant catering that cost over $20,000, more than $56,000 in awards and gifts, and tens of thousands of dollars in expensive entertainment that included a violinist and guitarist, not to mention a lavish commissioners reception that cost taxpayers over $7,600," Mica said. "GSA spent more than $20,000 on drumsticks for attendees, $28,000 on time temperature picture frames, and $7,800 on shadowbox picture frames.
"GSA's pattern of waste and abuse continues," Mica continued. "The agency has been wasting millions of dollars on junkets, private vacations, bonuses, gifts, and more, not to mention the millions it wastes by letting valuable federal properties sit empty for years. GSA officials thumbed their nose at Congress when they were asked to testify before the committee which oversees the agency, and GSA has a history of subverting the will of the President on salary freezes and Congress on real estate decisions. This out of control agency is not above the law, and the Transportation Committee will continue its work to investigate and reform this arrogant and wasteful agency."
"Instead of clowns and mind readers, we've got violinists and guitarists -- GSA has really classed up their act," said U.S. Rep. Jeff Denham (R-CA), Chairman of the Economic Development, Public Buildings and Emergency Management Subcommittee. "We've known that there is a culture of waste, fraud and abuse within the many layers of GSA, and this proves that this is a systemic problem that is rooted deeply within this organization. We want to see exactly how far up this goes and how widespread this type of waste and corruption is within government. There's got to be other agencies out there doing this, and we plan to continue investigating until we uncover and put a stop to all instances of wasteful spending of taxpayer dollars."
The November 2010 awards ceremony was held at the Crystal Gateway Marriott and the Key Bridge Marriott in the Washington, DC area. The GSA IG's initial estimate is that the ceremony cost a total of $268,732. The Transportation Committee will also continue to investigate the incident.