We are holding today's hearing because the latest round of GSA spending abuses has called into question GSA's ability to safeguard taxpayer money.
After the Inspector General revealed the $800,000 dollar Vegas vacation -- complete with clowns and mind-readers -- GSA tried hard to claim the problem was limited to one regional office and the guy in the hot tub. Given the Committee's work on GSA's empty buildings and growing administrative costs, we suspected the Vegas conference was just the tip of the iceberg.
Thanks to the Inspector General and several Freedom of Information Act requests by the media we know the problems are agency wide. In the last two weeks we've learned about 77 conferences and award ceremonies under IG review, $44 million in out of control bonuses, and GSA's decision it can spend billions of taxpayer dollars on leases without Congress' approval.
Most recently we learned the Federal Acquisition Service spent $270,000 on a one day awards ceremony. GSA spent $20,000 for drum sticks, $35,000 for picture frames and more than $104,000 for an outside consultant. And to make matters worse, we understand 3 out of 4 of GSA's top officials were there -- the Federal Acquisition Service Commissioner, the current Public Buildings Commissioner, and the Deputy Administrator. And because of a Fox News FOIA request, we know GSA handed out over $3 million dollars in bonuses at this ceremony.
But this time nobody blew the whistle. Why did it take a year and a half and a FOIA request by the Washington Times before this saw the light of day?
And why did it take a WUSA Channel 9 reporter's FOIA request to find out about $44 million in unreported bonuses in 2011? The Committee was told Hot Tub Neely received a $9,000 bonus in 2011, but according to this Freedom of Information Act request his bonus was $16,000. And the list goes on: a $50,000 bonus for a Regional Commissioner under investigation for the Vegas conference with a total compensation of $240,000; an employee with a base salary of $84,000 earned $115,000 in over-time; a $79,000 bonus for one employee with a total compensation of nearly $260,000; and multiple $50,000+ bonuses.
This despite the Administration's own guidance in 2011 that directed agencies to manage their awards "In a manner that is cost-effective for agencies and successfully motivates strong employee performance.'
According to another Channel 9 FOIA request the federal government paid $439 million dollars in bonuses to 1.3 million federal employees last year. Now GSA is supposed to be the experts, the watchdogs of taxpayer money. Yet GSA -- which has 1% of the federal employees -- took home 10% of the bonuses.
This is outrageous. Here you have an entire agency of procurement experts working the system to take home 10 times more in bonuses than the rest of the government. If you look at this list, it appears most senior managers are involved. This is not isolated to Region 9 and Jeff Neely.
Maybe GSA's internal waste explains the billions of dollars it wastes mismanaging vacant and under-utilized federal properties across this country.
This committee will hold its next hearing highlighting the millions GSA wastes by sitting on empty buildings, in an empty courthouse in Miami on Monday, August 6th.
And, now, it appears GSA believes it can ignore 40 years of legal precedent and sign a lease binding the taxpayer to $350 million without authorization.
If GSA cannot even stop wasteful spending on drum sticks or trips to the South Pacific, the idea of entrusting GSA to bind the taxpayer to billion dollar leases -- without authorization from anybody -- is completely unacceptable.
And, on top of this, private sector witnesses are afraid to testify -- afraid that GSA will penalize them and their companies for working with the Committee on identifying waste.
This agency is simply out of control and we need to fix it.