April 18, 2012
Matt Dempsey Matt_Dempsey@epw.senate.gov (202) 224-9797
Katie Brown Katie_Brown@epw.senate.gov (202) 224-2160
Opening Statement of Senator James M. Inhofe
Ranking Member, Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works
Full Committee hearing entitled, "Oversight Hearing on the General Services Administration (GSA)."
Wednesday, April 18, 2012 10:00 AM
Thank you, Madam Chairman, for calling this oversight hearing on GSA's Public Buildings Service 2010 Western Regions Conference. The IG report, released on April 2nd, highlights serious waste and abuse of taxpayer money as well as possible fraud. I understand that the Office of Inspector General received information of the possible misuse of taxpayer money from a GSA employee and I commend this staffer for stepping forward.
After the release of the IG report, I sent a letter to Chairman Boxer requesting that the committee hold a hearing to look into the IG's findings. I also requested that the IG, Brian Miller, testify. So, I am pleased that you agreed to have this hearing and that Mr. Miller and the new Acting Administrator of GSA, Dan Tangherlini, are joining us today.
The report describes a number of disturbing findings from the investigation. Some of the highlights are:
GSA Spending on conference planning was excessive, wasteful, and in some cases impermissible
- Travel expenses for conference planning totaled $100,405.37 and catering costs totaled $30,000
- GSA failed to follow contracting regulations in many of the procurements associated with the WRC and wasted taxpayer dollars
GSA incurred excessive and impermissible costs for food
- $146,537.05 on catered food and beverages (including $5,600 for three semi-private catered in-room parties and $44 per person daily breakfasts)
- $30,207.60, roughly $95 per person, for the closing reception and dinner
GSA incurred impermissible and questionable miscellaneous expenses
- Mementos for attendees, purchases of clothing for GSA employees, and tuxedo rentals
GSA's approach to the conference indicates that minimizing expenses was not a goal
- The PBS Region 9 Commissioner/Acting Regional Administrator instructed those planning the conference to make it "over the top" and to make it bigger and better than previous conferences. Several suggestions to minimize expenses were ignored.
Since the release of the report, the GSA Administrator resigned and the head of the Public Buildings Service and the Administrator's top advisor were fired. Further, ten career employees have been placed on administrative leave. These dismissals highlight the seriousness of the findings in the IG report. I want to thank our counterparts on the House side for their own responsible oversight and again thank the Chair for beginning our own oversight. I say beginning because I believe that this goes beyond a onetime event. I am concerned that this type of waste has become an imbedded part of the culture at GSA. This conference occurred during a recession and after the President's Executive Order calling for an "Efficient, Effective, and Accountable Government" and calls for eliminating waste and enhancing transparency. One can only wonder what kind of wasteful spending would be occurring in a better economy. It is time to get at the root of these spending problems. While I appreciate the IG and Acting Administrator joining us today, it would be helpful if we could hear from some of those that were directly involved and find out how things have changed.
As the Committee with oversight responsibilities over GSA and the Public Buildings Service, today I hope we can find out how this happened and examine the safeguards GSA has put in place to prevent this from happening again. It would be prudent to continue oversight hearings in the future to ensure this culture of wasteful spending has come to an end. We have an opportunity to restore the public's trust and make certain that federal agencies are acting in the best interest of the American people.
Again, I thank the Chair for holding this hearing and look forward to hearing from our witnesses.