Your taxpayer dollars are hard at work — or is that hardly working?
In this age of record federal deficits and debt, the people who run the government go to great lengths to act as if every dollar they spend is carefully scrutinized.
But the latest spending scandal from Washington, D.C., demonstrates once again how large sums of money can be squirreled away in the budgets of federal departments and agencies and then squandered in the most cavalier fashion.
This time, for a change, heads rolled.
On Monday, the head of the General Services Administration, Martha Johnson, resigned, and two of her two deputies were fired. Four other GSA managers have been placed on leave.
That was the price they paid for a four-day, $823,000 training conference held for 300 employees in October 2010 at a Las Vegas resort. An investigation by the GSA's inspector general revealed a pattern of foolish and unnecessary spending that was so far beyond the bounds of reason that it almost defies belief.
The spending not only violated federal rules governing conferences like this, but also it reflects the kind of out-of-touch thinking that taxpayers rightly fear is not that unusual in the federal bureaucracy.
Included in the unjustified spending was $5,600 for catered in-room parties, $44 per person daily breakfasts, $75,000 for a team-building exercise (building a bicycle), $146,000 for catered food and drinks and $6,325 on commemorative coins handed out to participants.
One expenditure was especially galling. GSA managers agreed to pay an extra $41,480 in catering charges in exchange for the hotel's agreement to lower its room rates to the maximum level the federal government pays. How's that for a willful manipulation of the rules?
Fallout from this spending debacle has even drawn the attention of President Obama, who indicated, through a spokesman, that he is "outraged by the excessive spending, questionable dealings with contractors and disregard for taxpayer dollars."
It's unclear how this issue became public. GSA's inspector general indicated he initiated his investigation after getting a tip from an agency employee disturbed by what had occurred. But how many other similar instances of over-the-top spending remain undiscovered?