Asked if the GSA has a “culture” problem that led to the freewheeling spending, which included poolside entertainment by a clown and a “Red Carpet” talent show, Tangherlini replied, “We definitely have a culture problem in Region 9,” referring to the four-state Pacific Rim office. “I can’t say I know enough to say we have a culture problem” in the rest of the agency, he said.
The officials’ apologies did little to satisfy lawmakers, who were outraged that top agency officials allowed the spending to take place, then waited to take action even after the inspector general briefed them midway through his year-long investigation.
Issa and others questioned how Johnson could have signed off on a $9,000 bonus for Neely last year over the objections of a committee that reviews bonuses for members of the Senior Executive Service.
In an e-mail released by the committee, Johnson wrote “yes on a bonus,” in part because Neely had to serve as regional administrator in an acting capacity “forever and a day.” She told lawmakers Monday that the reward was for his job performance. Pressed on whether she would deny the bonus knowing what she knows today, she said she could not say.
Johnson said she received a briefing on the preliminary findings in May 2011. She decided not to launch her own investigation, “as such action would have entailed a terrific duplication of government resources.”
Johnson said she believed that Miller would quickly conclude the investigation, but “the deadline slipped repeatedly from October to November to December.” She said her office received a final report last month — 15 months after it was requested.
“I personally apologize to the American people for this entire situation,” Johnson said.
Also at Monday’s hearing, David E. Foley, a former deputy commissioner at the Public Buildings Service, repeatedly apologized for poking fun at the lavish spending during the conference’s talent show, comments that were captured on video. But Foley stressed that he was not involved with planning the event.
Most of the contracts for the conference, including for an event planner, the audiovisual company and the bike-building exercise, were not competitively bid, as federal rules require.