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GSA Scandal: let the hearing begin

Billy Gardner

GSA under fire

Heated accusations tossed at top GSA officials

The General Services Administration hearing painted a dark picture of the government agency that is supposed to help minimize cost, not spend them on clowns for entertainment. 

Rep. John Mica accused the White House of knowing about the lavish spending by the General Services Administration at a 2010 conference in Las Vegas.

“People from the White House knew about it, did nothing, kept it quiet until just a few days ago when the statement was released by the president condemning that act,” the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee chairman told CNN.

“It also appears that the bureaucrats within GSA tried to keep it as quiet, and sweep it under the rug, as much as possible,” Mica said.

These accusations come after the inspector general reported that the GSA spent $822,000 on the conference of 300 attendees, $75,000 was spent on team building exercises, $6,000 on commemorative coins and another $6,000 on canteens. Even a clown was hired.

The GSA is an independent government agency set up to support federal agencies and develop cost-minimizing policies, amongst other things. The GSA is required to award 23 percent of contract dollars to small businesses every year but has not been in compliance.

Testimony at the hearing vilified the GSA and its top officials, Rep. Elijah Cummings scrupulously attacked the GSA and in particular Jeff Neely, the GSA official who organized the Las Vegas conference, “In one e-mail,” Cummings started out, “Mr. Neely invited personal friends to the conference, writing, and I quote — and this is simply incredible — quote: ‘We’ll get you guys a room near us, and we’ll pick up the room tab. Could be a blast.’ End of quote. He then went on and wrote this — ‘I know I’m bad, but as Deb and I often say, why not enjoy it while we have it and while we can. Ain’t gonna last forever.’ End of quote. Well, Mr. Neely, it stops now.”

Other statements came from former GSA administrator Martha Johnson who took interim leadership of the administration she found poorly managed. She said the Western Region was the dominant part of the problem and was a “”raucous, extravagant, arrogant, self-congratulatory event that ultimately belittled federal workers.” She later added about her resignation, “I will mourn for the rest of my life the loss of my appointment.”

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