General Services Administration officials used the pretense of fake awards programs as a way around federal travel expense rules in order to hold dinner events at taxpayers’ expense, according to a report today by Roll Call, citing an interview transcript it had obtained.
The transcript of the interviews, conducted by GSA’s Office of Inspector General, show that the problem of abusive spending practices may run deeper than first reported when GSA’s inspector general released a critical April 2 report that the agency spent almost $823,000 on an October 2010 Las Vegas conference for about 300 people.
The GSA IG report, which also revealed that officials had violated a number of rules and regulations governing how agency personnel are to spend agency funds for travel and events, led to the sudden resignation of GSA Administrator Martha Johnson, the firing of two of her top aides, and several other disciplinary moves.
“This goes a lot farther and a lot deeper than what we’ve seen,” said Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Calif. – pictured above), in the Roll Call report. Denham chairs a Transportation and Infrastructure subpanel with jurisdiction over GSA.
A GSA employee who attended the Las Vegas conference, in an interview with the Office of Inspector, said the administration’s officials routinely invented awards to qualify for dinner events for reimbursement. According to the transcript obtained by Roll Call, the employee said:
“Typically at any – any conference in my memory over the last three or four years, probably even further back, there was always – there’s always one night where we have an awards ceremony and people are fed. I mean, it’s not even like it’s snacks. I mean, sometimes it’s pretty close to being like a full meal.”
The employee recalled how it was commonly understood that “the only way we can have food is if we have an awards ceremony.”
The transcript surfaced after being circulated among members of Congress in connection with the GSA IG’s report. It it was not part of the original report.
A GSA spokesperson declined to comment on the report, but pointed to GSA’s current stand on the matter contained in an April 10 video message issued by Dan Tangherlini, in which the new acting director of GSA described the expenditures at the Las Vegas conference as “completely unacceptable.”
Read more about what was in the transcript at Roll Call.