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Federal Eye
Posted at 02:00 PM ET, 07/17/2012

GSA chief reins in bonuses and freezes new hiring


The acting chief of the General Services Administration will announce Tuesday that he is canceling almost all bonuses for executives this year and freezing hiring after a spending scandal that prompted a major shake-up at the agency.

“We are examining all aspects of GSA’s enterprise including the agency’s long-term hiring needs and compensation process,” acting Administrator Dan Tangherlini said in a statement to be sent to 12,600 employees. GSA gave out $660,000 in executive bonuses in fiscal 2011, officials said.

The curbs on hiring and bonuses are Tangherlini’s latest effort to reform the agency that manages federal real estate and oversees most government purchasing. Since he stepped in as administrator in April after revelations by the GSA inspector general of lavish spending at a training conference in Las Vegas two years ago, Tangherlini has brought in a new management team and begun an aggressive review of the agency’s day-to-day operations.

He has canceled numerous planned conferences and begun slashing travel budgets throughout the government by 30 percent. Among the biggest casualties is a major trade show for federal employees and contractors involved in government energy projects. Tangherlini pulled the plug on GovEnergy last week. Officials said the planned August conference failed to meet the agency’s new standards for conferences.

“After a rigorous review ... GSA has found that the conference structure does not meet the standards that GSA has put in place for conferences and contracts,” the agency said in a statement.

The agency has also referred the GovEnergy conference matter to the inspector general’s office, officials said.

Officials said registrants and vendors will be reimbursed for money they put down. It was not clear how much the costs come to.

The decision to cancel was “not a statement on the importance of the conference,” officials said.

GovEnergy was sponsored by industry contractors and numerous federal agencies, including Homeland Security, Defense, Energy and Veterans Affairs. It attracts thousands of vendors and attendees.

Tangherlini said he is cutting back bonuses for members of the Senior Executive Service by 85 percent for this fiscal year and suspending all hiring.

He will tell employees that his review has uncovered “clear deficiencies in the area of performance awards,” with more than 15 different bonus systems. “There are questions about the agency’s high award rate and questions about whether performance goals are set at a high enough level throughout the agency,”

Of 75 career senior executives, 67 received bonuses in the last fiscal year, officials said. The average was $9,600, the same award given to Jeffrey Neely, the organizer of the now-famous Western Regions conference. Neely got his bonus even after the inspector general’s review of the conference was well underway and GSA leaders had been briefed on the excessive spending.

Tangherlini, a former city administrator in the District who was Assistant Secretary for management at the Treasury Department, replaced Martha Johnson, who was forced to resign after the inspector general reported that GSA spent $823,000 to entertain 300 GSA employees for four days at an opulent hotel off the Las Vegas strip.

Organizers brought in a mind reader, a clown and lavish food spreads, and top executives held after-hours parties in their luxury suites.

This post has been updated since it was first published.

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By  |  02:00 PM ET, 07/17/2012

 
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