The General Services Administration (GSA) wasted taxpayer dollars on a luxurious conference outside of Las Vegas in October 2010 according to a new GSA Office of Inspector General (OIG) report. The GSA OIG "found that many of the expenditures on this conference were excessive and wasteful and that in many instances GSA followed neither federal procurement laws nor its own policy on conference spending. Conference costs included eight off-site planning meetings and significant food and beverage costs. The total cost of the conference was over $820,000."
That cost included $136,504 in pre-conference expenditures, including “scouting trips,” a “dry run” of conference events, a $75,000 bike-building team exercise, excessive food costs (including breakfast at a cost of $44 per person), semi-private parties in suites, and lots of tchotchkes. The report also found that “GSA failed to follow contracting regulations in many of the procurements associated with the [conference] and wasted taxpayer dollars.”
This isn’t the first time that the government went overboard with spending. Last year the big news was “muffingate,” which cooked up some good stories about $16 breakfast muffins, but ended up being half-baked, according to a revised Justice Department OIG report. Government purchase cards have always been fodder for stories about egregious government spending, such as TVs, a beer brewing kit, training at golf and tennis resorts, and more.
Of course, these pale in comparison to the $31 to $60 billion dollars in waste in Iraq and Afghanistan, but are certainly problematic in these tough economic times.
I find the GSA story to be very troubling for another reason.
A few weeks ago, I received a tip that GSA was sending approximately 150 employees on a junket to San Diego in July for five days. According to the itinerary, the plan is to stay at the Hard Rock Hotel at $133.00 per night. Throw in airfare plus a per diem of $71.00 per day, and you have a $150,000 to $200,000 taxpayer-funded trip for GSA employees. From what I have been told from someone knowledgeable about the event, the conference is a national meeting of the Industrial Operations Analysts and administrative contracting officers to discuss plans for the next year. I have also been told that it is a “real waste of time” and that it should be stopped. After the Las Vegas boondoggle, let’s hope that the GSA comes to its senses and places taxpayers above going “over the top” for its employees.
Scott Amey is POGO’s General Counsel