The Government Services Administration likes to have parties at taxpayers’ expense. It has gotten away away with this for years. The government spends so much money every year that junkets and parties go unnoticed.
The GSA hid the fun and games under this enormous layer of government spending. But then the party in Las Vegas hit the news. The story got lots of traders. That led to more investigations.
It turns out that Las Vegas was one of many parties.
A Congressional committee is now investigating. The GSA is in damage-control mode.
No more parties for a while.
Rep. John Mica’s committee is looking into 77 other parties.
All of this is political theater. The Pentagon wastes this much money on any afternoon. The Pentagon’s accounting system is so bad that billions get lost regularly. But that does not get readers. Parties do.
The documents, obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request, show the extent to which GSA dumped money into questionable conferences, sometimes with little or no record of spending. They also show that while the GSA was hosting lavish affairs, they were also doling out bonuses to their party guest employees.
One team-building exercise in 2010 was spent drumming. Then there were bonuses. Millions of dollars worth of bonuses.
According to the records, more than 3,700 employees received bonuses averaging about $1,000 apiece at the conference. The cost to taxpayers was $3.6 million — minus the cost of the drumsticks, and the consultant who headed up the exercise.
And a good time was had by all!
“Practices like this have drawn the ire of government watchdogs.” That is because ire makes for great political theater, and 2012 is an election year.
Several GSA conferences left no records. There was no accounting. This makes sense. The GSA’s bureaucrats regard this as a triumph. They rue the day when records were kept for the other celebrations. It will not happen again.
The Las Vegas meeting had a photo of some guy in a hot tub. As one critic says, “The lack of accountability is so bad that it’s impossible to fire anyone. It takes a hot-tub scandal to get rid of people at these agencies.”
Rep. Mica says this: “”They tried to do everything they could to cover up the October 2010 Las Vegas fiasco. Now, we’re hearing there are dozens more. We’re going to drag in all the parties involved and get to the bottom of this scandal.” Does this surprise anyone?
The GSA now says:
“As of April 2012 all spending for events, including training conferences, leadership events, team building exercises, award ceremonies, were suspended. The 2010 awards ceremony was an annual event and has been in existence going back to 2002. Under the new GSA leadership these events and this type of spending are not tolerated.”
All good things must come to an end . . . until the story blows over.
The real waste, Mica says, was in the poor management of 14,000 vacant government properties. GSA is supposed to monitor these. Billions of dollars have been lost, he says.
We never hear of this. Photos of empty buildings are not as media-worthy as a photo of some bureaucrat in a hot tub.
Nothing will change in Washington. Nothing ever changes in Washington. Until our money steps flowing to Washington, nothing will change.