Commentary: GSA corruption more far reaching than suspected, says lawmaker, watchdog group
~~~By Jim Kouri~~~Law Enforcement Columnist~~~Tuesday, April 17, 2012~~~~~
The scandal of the General Services Administration (GSA) and its Las Vegas adventure on the taxpayers' dime is only a small part of that agency's -- and the entire massive federal government's -- tidal wave of corruption, mismanagement and waste, according to a top Congressman and officials from one of the nations most respected government corruption watchdogs.
According to Judicial Watch, the overall questions are: Why didn’t Congress act sooner to set limits on the GSA’s manic spending sprees? Why did it take a public scandal with lots of mainstream media coverage for lawmakers—especially those responsible for the agency’s oversight—to finally threaten to take action?
The GSA is one of the federal government's largest agencies, with an annual budget of nearly $45 billion. It’s one of the of the government’s central management agencies and handles everything from office space for the feds to communication and purchasing for government installations.
According to its mandate, it's also responsible for contracting outside services such as building security, janitorial and maintenance services, and construction projects involving federal agencies and their properties.
Ironically, the GSA touts itself as an "innovation engine" that helps the government cut costs, according to Judicial Watch.
"The news of a lavish conference the GSA held for its employees in Las Vegas has further tarnished the reputation of the federal government and caused many observers to ponder the stewardship of government resources by the Obama Administration," said political strategist and attorney Mike Baker.
It cost taxpayers nearly $1 million and featured luxury accommodations for employees and their loved ones, fine cuisine, parties and expensive gifts, according to the GSA's Inspector General's Report.
The scathing IG report revealed a "gross misuse of taxpayer dollars" on an internal conference that was "excessive, wasteful, and in some cases impermissible," according to Judicial Watch.In addition, dozens of agency workers were awarded cash bonuses for arranging the costly event.
The IG's report -- coupled with the reaction of talk radio hosts, Internet news and commentary web sites, and Fox News Channel -- has inspired Congress to finally “investigate” the GSA. In fact, next week the House committee that has oversight jurisdiction over the GSA will hold a special hearing to address the agency’s “outrageous wasteful spending.”
The Florida congressman organizing the session, House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman John Mica, now reveals that the GSA has a lengthy history of wasting taxpayer dollars, according to Judicial Watch.
In 2010, investigations revealed that GSA paid $234,000 to a Kansas City public relations firm to manage negative publicity that GSA was receiving as a result of mismanagement of their own internal investigations.
In fact, Mica says the GSA’s mismanagement of federal property has cost American taxpayers billions of dollars. “GSA’s habitual mismanagement of taxpayer-owned assets is what makes spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on a conference for bureaucrats so appalling,” the congressman said in statement posted on his web site.
Mica added that for years GSA's top bosses have stonewalled congressional requests for administrative costs, clearly indicating that lawmakers have known for some time about the corruption inside the agency.
"Why, then, hasn’t Congress bothered to take action before the Vegas scandal ignited so much public outrage?" asks Judicial Watch.
"But can we blame only GSA bosses and staff? Perhaps we should look at how Obama, his White House staff, and his family cavalierly spend taxpayers' money on trips, parties, and living the high-life on the taxpayers' dime. Obama is so big on being fair, so what's fair about taking a building janitor's hard earned money and using it to play a few rounds of golf in Hawaii?" asked Mike Baker.
Jim Kouri, CPP, the fifth Vice President and Public Information Officer of the National Association of Chiefs of Police, has served on the National Drug Task Force and trained police and security officers throughout the country.