The government’s procurement agency, General Services Administration (GSA), is under investigation for improper spending on a series of lavish GSA conferences. The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee held a hearing Monday to look into the matter.
The GSA is being reviewed for using taxpayer funds on employee excursions. Congress began investigating GSA spending after the inspector general reported in early April that the agency spent about $823,000 at a Las Vegas resort during a October 2010 conference.
Along with 2010 conference, Congressional Committees are now looking beyond the Las Vegas conference at other spending practices by the agency.
During her opening statement, former GSA Administrator Martha Johnson apoligized for the situation saying, "As the head of the agency, I am responsible. I deeply regret that the exceedingly good work of GSA has been besmirched. I will mourn for the rest of my life the loss of my appointment."
Jeffrey Neely, who is on administrative leave from his position as Region 9 Pacific Rim commissioner of the GSA, invoked his fifth amendement privilege against self incrimination.
Inspector General Brian Miller told the Committee that he has recommended criminal charges in a referral to the Justice Department.
Acting GSA Administrator Dan Tangherlini said that a total of 12 officials have been terminated or placed on leave and that the agency is seeking to get some of the money back from those responsible.
Additional current and former GSA officials, who testified before the committee, included GSA Chief of Staff Michael Robertson and GSA Deputy Commissioner David Foley.
House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) previously told Fox News that the administration's condemnation of the GSA's spending showed a lack of "real responsibility."
Rep. John Mica (R-FL), chairman of the Transportation committee, recently stated that "GSA has been spreading the taxpayers' wealth, providing luxurious junkets not only for high-level executives but for its interns as well." Rep. Mica also told The Hill, "There must be accountability for the Vegas vacations, free iPods, and this blatant abuse of taxpayer dollars."
Acting GSA chief Dan Tangherlini expressed "outrage" over the scandal. “What took place was completely unacceptable, there were violations of travel rules, acquisition rules and good conduct,” as well as violations of “rules of common sense, the spirit of public service and the trust that America’s taxpayers have placed in all of us.”
This hearing was one of three congressional committees that will be held to investigate wasteful spending at the agency in charge of federal buildings and supplies. The House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee will hold a hearing on Tuesday.