U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill, who began investigating wasteful spending by the General Services Administration (GSA) in 2010, today released the following statement in response to new information [link to letter on website] about improper spending at a 2010 GSA conference in Washington, D.C.:
"There's a new Sheriff at GSA, and it's good to see that he's turning over every rock to find wrongdoing and correct the abuses of the past. Under the old leadership, who I investigated, outrageous spending on a day-long party for employees who had already received cash bonus awards would never have seen the light of day-which is exactly why I held their feet to the fire until we saw real changes. Now, I'm cautiously optimistic that uncovering these past abuses of taxpayer dollars means a new era of accountability and transparency at an agency that has sorely lacked both."
The new information comes from GSA's Inspector General, who was asked to review the conference by the agency's new Acting Administrator, Dan Tangherlini. McCaskill's investigations into the agency helped topple its previous top leaders-including then-Administrator Martha Johnson-for waste, fraud, and abuse of taxpayer dollars.
GSA Inspector General Brian Miller sent a letter to McCaskill, the Chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Contracting Oversight, to inform her that he has opened an investigation into a one-day conference held by GSA in Washington, D.C. in 2010 which cost more than $268,000, and was held to celebrate employees who had received bonus awards. Among the costs of the conference were:
* $20,000 for 4,000 drumsticks which were given to attendees
* $28,000 for 4,000 "time temperature picture frames"
* $7,700 for a reception for 200 attendees featuring hors d'oeuvres, beverages, and a violinist and guitarist
McCaskill, a former Missouri State Auditor, recently revealed findings from her investigations showing that in just the past few years the GSA had paid more than $1 million in taxpayer-funded bonuses to employees being investigated by the Inspector General for wrongdoing or misconduct. McCaskill has expanded the scope of her investigation to examine bonuses awarded across all federal agencies.
McCaskill also said that today's findings underscore the need for her Accountability in Government Act, legislation to create stronger safeguards against waste at federal agencies and to install new measures for accountability across the federal government.