Bloomberg News

GSA’s Inspector Probes $269K Ceremony

July 19, 2012

GSA’s Inspector General Probes Spending at Virginia Ceremony

Brian Miller, inspector general with the U.S. General Services Administration, left, during a House Oversight and Government Reform committee hearing with Martha Johnson, former Administrator with the GSA, in Washington. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

The General Services Administration held a one-day event that cost taxpayers more than a quarter of a million dollars about a month after spending $823,000 at a Las Vegas conference that triggered a shake-up of the agency.

The GSA’s inspector general is investigating a $269,000 awards ceremony near Washington that featured a guitarist, violinist and $21,000 in drumsticks given to participants.

The event in Arlington, Virginia, in November 2010 provided 4,000 drumsticks to attendees, according to a letter today from Inspector General Brian Miller to Senator Claire McCaskill, a Missouri Democrat and chairman of a Senate subcommittee on contracting oversight.

This conference had a “whole host of questionable charges,” Representative John Mica, a Florida Republican who heads the House transportation committee, which in part oversees GSA, said at a press conference today.

Mica said his committee is also investigating the event at the Crystal Gateway Marriott. In addition to the drumsticks, it included $21,000 in catering charges and $28,000 for 4,000 “time temperature picture frames,” according to Miller’s letter.

‘Not Tolerated’

The committee plans to hold a hearing on the Virginia event, possibly within the month, said Justin Harclerode, a spokesman for Mica’s committee.

The inspector general wrote that his office has “opened an administrative investigation.” Dan Tangherlini, who became GSA acting administrator in April, brought the incident to the office’s attention, according to the letter.

“Under the new GSA leadership, this event and type of spending is not tolerated,” Betsaida Alcantara, GSA’s communications director, said in an e-mailed statement. “The new leadership at the GSA is leaving no stone unturned in investigating any misuse of taxpayer dollars. When we find serious issues we refer them to the Office of Inspector General, as we did in this case.”

The agency has been holding the awards ceremonies since 2002, Alcantara said.

The transportation committee had been working in harmony with Tangherlini until this week, Mica said. He said the acting administrator was “subverting” the committee’s process with regard to approving leases.

Resort Spa

Mica said he was looking at potential legislation to “take GSA out of the property management business, period.”

U.S. lawmakers have been scrutinizing the agency since an April 2 report by the inspector general exposed lavish spending at the gathering at the M Resort Spa Casino in Henderson, Nevada, near Las Vegas. GSA Administrator Martha Johnson resigned in the scandal, and the inspector general has referred the matter to the Department of Justice.

The Las Vegas event featured a clown, a mind reader and a $75,000 bicycle-building exercise, according to the inspector general. Breakfasts were provided at $44 a person, more than triple the $12-a-person government allowance for Las Vegas, according to the report.

The GSA manages property and purchases goods and services for other government agencies

To contact the reporter on this story: Danielle Ivory in Washington at divory@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Stephanie Stoughton at sstoughton@bloomberg.net


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