In the continuing saga of the General Services Administration (GSA), Chief Dan Tangherlini faced the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee this week to respond to questions concerning the astounding lack of spend management his agency has shown in recent years, most of which came to light following a lavish April 2010 training conference in Las Vegas.
Tangherlini claims there has been an extensive restructuring of authority, implementation of cost-saving measures and a more stringent spend management policy, as well as increased scrutiny and oversight. However, Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) pointed out that abuse has continued, citing instances such as “a 2012 leadership conference in Napa Valley, Calif., that cost $40,000, a relocation allowance of $300,000 for one employee who left after one year, and trips to Hawaii by five or six GSA employees for a ribbon-cutting ceremony that lasted one hour.” (GovExec.com)
With no concrete system in place to track expenditures, there is little wonder that problems persist to the point where regional GSA administrators are generally unable to provide specific answers about their accounting and spending policies, resulting in a culture of abuse and little accountability for poor expense management. The GSA has shown a willingness to rectify mistakes by cancelling 47 conferences, saving more than $11 million dollars. Still, with more than 40% of GSA employees making more than $100,000 due to excessive overtime billing and an out-of-control bonus system, the GSA (and Tangherlini) has a long way to go in order to right the ship.
In response to the spotlight of scrutiny, Tangherlini stated, “In this time of shrinking budgets, GSA’s mission of delivering savings has never been more important. It is our responsibility to make every taxpayer dollar count, and I am confident that the reforms that are underway at GSA will help us do exactly that.” (FCW)