Federal Diary: Readers react to the GSA spending scandal

Joe Davidson
Columnist April 10, 2012

The Federal Diary gets a lot of reader reaction, by e-mail and online comments (generally signed with nicknames). Some of it is fit to print. Occasionally, we give readers a chance to speak out by publishing a few of their remarks, edited for clarity and length. We’ve received many messages regarding stories about the spending on a 2010 General Services Administration (GSA) conference detailed in an inspector general’s (IG) report. It led to the removal of three top agency officials and five others being placed on leave.

Joe Davidson writes the Federal Diary, a column about the federal workplace that celebrated its 80th birthday in November 2012. View Archive

I think your April 4 column about the GSA proves that having an independent IG is a valuable contributor to weeding out waste and abuse. I am proud to note that the rank-and-file employees of the GSA had a sense of what was not appropriate and spoke their concern: “several suggestions by regional employees that costs be reined in were ignored.” You do not say how the IG became aware. . . . No matter how the IG became involved, the IG could not be stopped by Martha Johnson or any other high-ranking person at the GSA. This is a success story. The employees of the GSA who recognized the inappropriateness of what was happening deserve the taxpayers’ thanks. It’s a great story to highlight the positive role of an independent IG, and also the correctly working compasses of the employees of the GSA.

— Cathy Eshmont, Ellicott City, Md., retired Defense Department employee

Note: Our first story on the scandal said Susan Brita, a deputy GSA administrator, tipped off the IG.

I hope the public realizes how appalled and embarrassed the rest of us feds are by this.

— seaduck2001

Yeah, and just a few bad mortgage brokers caused the housing bubble.

All the rest of them were saints.

We have a government spending bubble.

Uncle Sam is about to be foreclosed on and these GSA workers were caught dancing on the grave.

We’ll need more than four hearings to clean up government waste.

We should fire all government employees each year and hire back only the best.

There are lots of other people who want these jobs.

— jfv123

In the stories concerning the GSA someone should look at the real “problems.” I am not saying it’s not an issue, but $822,000 for 300 people breaks down to about $2,740 per person. For four days including travel, hotels and program costs, it is cheaper than most corporate (and congressional) junkets. This is political (both parties). In addition, another article mentioned Hats Off spending of 635 awards costing $3,175, or $5 each.

Think about it.

— Kermit Harrison, Baltimore

The GSA spectacle is a reflection of Obama’s Democrat big government attitude and wasteful spending that shows disrespect for the American middle class, hardworking Americans. Use and abuse taxpayers’ money by federal government employees and taunt the American people with a “we can get away with it” attitude because they are protected by Obama’s big government policies and regulations.

— klausdmk

In defense of conferences:

For a decade-plus I attended, then later ran, a quarterly conference involving about 100- 150 government employees and contractors. The contractors had to pay their way out of their own funds, not overhead on any government contract. The conference discussed the latest aspects of a technical area.

It also gave time for people to discuss their ongoing projects. For instance, I would arrange to meet 2 or 3 contractors at the meeting, and that saved having to travel to their facilities, or them traveling to my office. So the gain was an overall cost saving to the government, in addition to keeping everyone up to speed on the technology and its applications to government problems.

— HappilyRetired2

As a former federal employee, I am horrified about this. To think these employees lived it up at this conference and enjoyed making videos and etc. on what looks to be government time is a total lack of regard for the American taxpayer. They all should be fired. We need Washington to be held accountable for what is way too many tax dollars collected. . . . This just proves it.

— LoveFiction

Something in your column struck the House Oversight Committee as unfair. Your column fails to disclose the identity and relevant background of the individual being quoted as the “Office of Special Counsel” to your readers — convicted felon and former OSC chief Scott Bloch. Quoting Bloch’s criticisms of Lurita Doan [who was fired by the George W. Bush administration 11 months after a special counsel’s report] without mentioning his name and his guilty plea to criminal contempt of Congress glosses over the reality that Bloch’s investigation of Doan was highly politicized and the integrity of his efforts tarnished by his conviction.

— Ali Ahmad, communications adviser, Oversight and Government Reform Committee; Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.)

Previous columns by Joe Davidson are available at wapo.st/JoeDavidson. Follow the Federal Diary on Twitter: @JoeDavidsonWP

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