GSA Chief Seeks to Cut Budget For Audits

By Scott Higham and Robert O'Harrow Jr.
Washington Post Staff Writers
Saturday, December 2, 2006

The new chief of the U.S. General Services Administration is trying to limit the ability of the agency's inspector general to audit contracts for fraud or waste and has said oversight efforts are intimidating the workforce, according to government documents and interviews.

GSA Administrator Lurita Alexis Doan, a Bush political appointee and former government contractor, has proposed cutting $5 million in spending on audits and shifting some responsibility for contract reviews to small, private audit contractors.

Doan also has chided Inspector General Brian D. Miller for not going along with her attempts to streamline the agency's contracting efforts. In a private staff meeting Aug. 18, Doan said Miller's effort to examine contracts had "gone too far and is eroding the health of the organization," according to notes of the meeting written by an unidentified participant from the Office of Inspector General (OIG).

The GSA is responsible for managing about $56 billion worth of contracts each year for the departments of Defense and Homeland Security and other agencies.

Doan compared Miller and his staff to terrorists, according to a copy of the notes obtained by The Washington Post.

"There are two kinds of terrorism in the US: the external kind; and, internally, the IGs have terrorized the Regional Administrators," Doan said, according to the notes.

Through a spokesman, Doan said she respects the inspector general's role and is not doing anything to undercut his independence. She also denied that she had referred to Miller, a former terrorism prosecutor, or his staff as terrorists.

"She's trying to reduce wasteful spending," said GSA spokesman David Bethel. "Just like any other office within GSA, she has asked the OIG to live within his budget, and she's hopeful that the IG is going to embrace that concept. She is not singling him out for this attention. She's not challenging the IG's independence. This is about fiscal discipline and reducing wasteful spending and creating a business environment that can be embraced by everyone.

"By law, she can't reduce the IG's independence, and she's aware of that."

Doan, who was confirmed as administrator May 26, has publicly criticized Miller on other occasions. In her Nov. 10 annual report, Doan stated there was only one GSA manager unwilling to "confront programs and policies that had outlived their usefulness and were wasting taxpayer money." She later told Miller that she was referring to him, according to officials familiar with Doan's statement who asked not to be identified for fear of retribution.

Doan also complained in the annual report that Miller was being "unsupportive of recent changes" and said vendors and government contracting officials had reported that his auditors and investigators were exerting "undue pressure."

Bethel said yesterday that Doan's statement in her annual report "speaks for itself," and he declined to elaborate.

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