(WASHINGTON) — The General Services Administration was back in Congress’s crosshairs Thursday after the GSA’s inspector general reported to Congress on another installment of, “egregious waste of taxpayer dollars” at the beleaguered government agency.
Just months after the agency was rocked when a lavish 2010 Las Vegas conference was exposed by the agency’s inspector general, GSA is now facing scrutiny for wasteful spending at another performance awards ceremony for its employees.
This time, the agency is being investigated for spending $268,732 on a one-day conference for its Federal Acquisition Service division on Nov. 17, 2010, in Arlington, Va.
More than $20,000 of taxpayer money was spent on drumsticks for 4,000 attendees, more than $8,500 for an appearance by someone called “Agent X,” according to the preliminary findings of the Inspector General. The event, which was held at the Crystal City Gateway Marriott just outside Washington, D.C., also included expenses of more than $35,000 for picture frames, $20,000 in catering charges as well as additional funding for a violinist and guitarist.
“This is another sad day for the taxpayers in the United States,” Rep. John Mica, the Republican chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure committee, said. “This sounds almost unbelievable to have this kind of waste reported when we’re running trillions in dollars in deficit — makes absolutely everyone’s blood boil.”
The outrage was bipartisan.
“It is deeply troubling to learn that more than a quarter million dollars in hard earned taxpayer money was wasted so that certain GSA employees could congratulate themselves,” Rep. Nick Rahall, the top Democrat on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, wrote in a statement.
Last April, the GSA Inspector General revealed that the agency had spent $822,751 of taxpayer funds to conduct the Western Regions Conference in Las Vegas, Nev. Martha Johnson, the former administrator of GSA, resigned abruptly in the wake of the scandal and was replaced by Acting Administrator Dan Tangherlini.
The committee was notified Thursday morning of the latest spending spree in a letter from IG Brian Miller, who was informed of the incident by Tangherlini on July 11.
Still, Rep. Jeff Dehnam, the chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure subcommittee on oversight, said that his panel will conduct hearings next week to further examine the incident.
“It’s still a blatant abuse of taxpayer dollars and it’s going to stop,” Dehnam, R-Calif., said. “The taxpayers can’t afford it and they’re not going to stand for it any longer.”
GSA noted Thursday that “under the new GSA leadership, this event and type of spending is not tolerated” and the agency continues a “rigorous top-to-bottom review of all agency operations” as it considers further reforms.
“These events indicate an already recognized pattern of misjudgment which spans several years and administrations. It must stop,” GSA communications director Betsaida Alcantara wrote in an email. “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. We look forward to the recommendations and findings of the OIG’s investigation.”
Earlier this week, Tangherlini cut executive bonuses and instituted a hiring freeze across GSA. Additionally, Tangherlini has also cancelled 36 conferences so far, according to GSA, saving millions in taxpayer dollars.
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Stephen Collinson, CNN