U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill-who began investigating wasteful spending at the General Services Administration (GSA) in 2010-today cited steps taken by the agency's new leadership towards increasing transparency and accountability, and urged the new administrator to continue cleaning up the problems caused by the agency's previous leadership.
In a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing, McCaskill praised GSA Acting Administrator Daniel Tangherlini for his efforts to stop unwarranted bonuses at the agency. Tangherlini answered the Senators' questions on progress made to strengthen accountability in the way taxpayer dollars are spent.
"So far I'm a fan of the acting commissioner," McCaskill said. "I think he's taken really aggressive steps that are hard to do in government to clean this mess up-but we have to take a look at how this happened, because it's really problematic they had enough nerve to do this when no one was looking."
A recent Inspector General Report revealed details of a taxpayer-funded conference held in Las Vegas costing more than $800,000. According to data received by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, approximately fifty people involved in the planning of the Las Vegas conference received bonuses totaling $35,500. McCaskill praised Tangherlini for his efforts to reduce federal bonuses at GSA-specifically citing previous concerns she had raised over an employee in the GSA Regional office in Kansas City who received a bonus after she mislead McCaskill's Subcommittee on Contracting Oversight regarding a wasteful public relations contract. McCaskill also cited the recent findings of her Subcommittee showing more than $1 million in taxpayer-funded bonuses went to GSA employees being investigated by the Inspector General for wrongdoing or misconduct.
Last month, McCaskill was joined by Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H) in introducing bipartisan legislation to create additional safeguards against such waste and to install strong new measures for accountability across the federal government. The Stop Wasteful Federal Bonuses and Conferences Act would:
Punish Bad Behavior: Federal agencies would be barred from giving bonuses to employees whose conduct has been determined, by an Inspector General or equivalent, to have resulted in fraud, waste, or abuse of taxpayer dollars, or a violation of contracting law.
Claw-back Bonuses Paid: If a bonus is paid to an employee prior to an adverse decision by an Inspector General during the same year of the decision, federal agencies are given the authority to require the return of that bonus.
Provide for Improved Agency Accountability for Conferences: Conferences costing more than $200,000 would need approval by the agency head or designee (such as a Chief Management Officer).
Put in Place New Reporting Requirements to Improve Transparency: Federal agencies sponsoring conferences would be required to report to Congress, on an annual basis, detailed information on such conferences.