Lavish conference tip of the iceberg

Once was not nearly enough when it comes to wasteful spending at the federal General Services Administration.

Where there's an egregious example of government waste, it's a pretty fair bet that it reflects a pattern, not an isolated incident.

So it is that congressional investigators, alerted by the recent government reports about the General Services Administration's decision to hold an $823,000 conference for agency employees, are digging up more examples of bureaucrats living large at taxpayer expense.

Agency employees, who have been promised protection from retaliation, are telling investigators of numerous abuses of taxpayer dollars including:

— Evading a $71-a-day allowance for food by characterizing some purchases as "finger food" to be served at non-existent award ceremonies. The so-called finger food included prime rib and pasta.

— Officials taking vacation trips that were characterized as necessities of work. One example is a weeklong trip to Hawaii by an undetermined number of GSA officials whose sole work-related event was to attend a brief ribbon-cutting ceremony.

— Spending exorbitant amounts of money to move employees from one part of the country to another. One blatant example involved spending $330,000 to move an employee from Denver to Hawaii, only to have the employee quit within a year.

The disconnect between what's happened at the GSA, which is in charge of federal buildings and supplies, and what life is like in the real world could not be more stark, and it obviously went all the way to the top of this free-spending agency. GSA head Martha Johnson already has resigned in the wake of a GSA inspector general's report detailing the $823,000 squandered at a July 2010 GSA conference in Las Vegas. The event featured lavish entertainment, but no real substantive purpose, according to the inspector general's report.

In addition to Johnson's resignation, two top GSA officials have been fired while eight others have been placed on administrative leave.

But that hardly seems like enough to straighten out an atmosphere of contempt for taxpayer dollars. It sounds as if wholesale changes and stricter oversight are required to straighten out the mess at GSA.

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rsp wrote on April 16, 2012 at 2:04 pm

The same moving expense deal was a scandal with the postal service a few years ago. Want to bet the policy is still in place? Now that nobody is looking?