Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings and Emergency Management Hearing on “GSA’s Squandering of Taxpayer Dollars: A Pattern of Mismanagement, Excess, and Waste”

Date: Tuesday, April 17, 2012 Time: 05:30 AM

There was no video broadcast for this event.


Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings and Emergency Management Hearing on “GSA’s Squandering of Taxpayer Dollars:  A Pattern of Mismanagement, Excess, and Waste”

Tuesday, April 17, 2012; 8:30 AM

2167 Rayburn House Office Building


Statement of
The Honorable Eleanor Holmes Norton
Transportation and Infrastructure Committee
Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management

April 17, 2012

“GSA’s Squandering of Taxpayer Dollars:
A Pattern of Mismanagement, Excess, and Waste”

Our subcommittee has just returned from a scheduled recess, but we are obligated to turn at once to the General Services Administration (GSA) Inspector General (IG) and others today for testimony about the 2010 Western Regions Conference (WRC), a conference run amuck near Las Vegas, Nevada.  The final IG report found that expenditures related to the conference were “excessive and wasteful and that in many instances GSA followed neither federal procurement laws nor its own policy on conferences.”  Some who planned the conference appear to have deliberately set out to have a boondoggle of a conference and explicitly to go “over the top,” in the words of one conference planner, hiring mind readers and clowns, and having dinner and a talent show in the desert at taxpayer’s expense.  The expensive partying at a four-star casino resort occurred before the recovery began to take hold and as millions of Americans were living hand to mouth, struggling under debts and the worst recession since the Great Depression.  The emerging evidence shows that this conference had been building in extravagance for years, but in the last 10 years had escalated drastically.  Only now is the full extent of the spending coming to light.  Moreover, coupled with the conference scandal are reports by the IG of a federal employee awards program in the same region, with little or no controls, resulting in yet more excessive spending.  The awards program apparently helped feed the exorbitant conference in Nevada, providing ipods and other desirable technology to employees.

I am perhaps more shocked and saddened than most, because I have sat on this subcommittee for  more than 20 years and by and large have found GSA appointed officials and civil servants, including some of those named in the IG report, to be among the most dedicated and professional federal employees.  It is particularly disappointing that the actions of a few officials have cast a shadow over the hard work and professionalism of the great majority of GSA employees.

I am grateful to the President for acting immediately to take out the top officials and bring in Dan Tangherlini, a professional of proven management skill and impeccable ethics.  Further, it was a political appointee of the administration who first alerted the IG when she saw signs of possibly excessive expenditures and employee misconduct in connection with the 2010 WRC conference.  The result was the investigation, which outlined the wasteful spending that is the subject of today’s hearing.  The GSA Administrator resigned, the two top political appointees that were overseeing the Public Building Service were discharged, and the civil servants who were responsible for planning the conference were placed on administrative leave pending disciplinary proceedings, as required.  The underlying behavior was indefensible, but the system that was designed to identify and punish that behavior worked.

Much work remains that may involve considerable reform and even restructuring of the agency.  I look forward to hearing from GSA officials about any steps they themselves believe must be taken.