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Federal Eye
Posted at 06:00 AM ET, 04/05/2012

GSA has history of controversies

The embarrassing revelations of misspending that engulfed the General Services Administration this week and prompted Congressional hearings are not the the agency’s first scandal.

The government’s real estate manager and shopper for cars and other supplies faced many ethics controversies before it spent $822,000 in 2010 on a lavish training conference off the Las Vegas Strip.

GSA officials will be asked to testify on the conference and other travel policies at an April 19 hearing before the House committee that oversees the agency.

In 2011 the last of 11 GSA employees and contractors pleaded guilty in a contractor kickback scheme after a five-year investigation by the Justice Department and the inspector general’s office.

The investigation started in 2004 as a probe into purchase card charges, but revealed a web of contract fraud, bribery and kickbacks.

In 2008, Lurita A. Doan was forced out as administrator after she was accused of trying to steer a contract to a friend. She also was strongly criticized by the inspector general for proposing cuts in financing for investigations of fraud and wasteful spending.

In 2006, former agency chief of staff David H. Safavian was found guilty of lying to the inspector general and a congressional committee about his efforts to help disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff secure two GSA-managed properties, the Old Post Office building in downtown Washington and part of the Naval Surface Warfare Center in White Oak. Safavian accepted an all-expenses paid trip to Scotland.

During the Jimmy Carter administration, federal and internal investigations found widespread contracting and purchasing abuses at GSA that cost billions of dollars. The scandal eventually forced the resignation of Administrator Jay Solomon, a wealthy Tennessee shopping mall developer. As a result of the problems, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee froze GSA’s new construction and leasing projects for most of 1979.

By and Timothy R. Smith  |  06:00 AM ET, 04/05/2012

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