Key officials involved in investigating the spreading scandals with the General Services Administration said yesterday that greater efforts are being made to ensure cooperation and coordination among the various federal government agencies taking part in the probe.
In response to a charge last week by Sen. Lawton Chiles (D-Fla.) that some federal officers were spending more time fighting among themselves than investigating the GSA situation, representatives of several government agencies met yesterday morning to share information on their respective probes.
Chiles, chairman of the Senate Governmental Affairs federal spending practices subcommittee conducting a congressional inquiry into alleged fraudulent activities by GSA employes and independent contractors, said at a new conference later in the day that he had been assured by the Justice Department that steps have been taken to end interagency disputes.
"Efforts are being magnified to get proper coordination (in the investigation) and to move as fast on it as we can and not have anything slip through the cracks," said Chiles.
Appearing at the new briefing with GSA Administrator Jay Solomon and Vincent R. Alto, a former Justice Department prosecutor hired by Solomon to supervise GSA's probe, Chiles said he had discussed his concerns with the two men as well as with Attorney General Griffin B. Bell and Deputy Attorney General Benjamin Civiletti.
"I got street reports last week that the FBI and the GSA investigators were working separately from each other," Chiles said, who threatened last week to disclose the names of those involved in departmental in-fighting.
But Solomon said yesterday that coordination and cooperation among those two agencies and other was not "as bad as Sen. Chiles was saying . . . We've been cooperating with the Justice Department since the investigation began."
The various investigations, begum several months ago, have established that millions of dollars have been paid for services or goods never provided GSA.
Both Solomon and Chiles agreed yesterday that they were "not satisfied" with the pace of the investigations but, according to Chiles, "expected some real progress soon" that would lead to indictments of some individuals on fraud-related charges.
But, Chiles cautioned, it could take between 18 months and two years to "wind up" all the cases growing out of the investigation.
"There's no reason to think that what's been happening in Washington and Baltimore is not happening in some of these other places we're just getting to," Chiles said.
GSA investigator Alto said he was getting "excellent cooperation" in his probe, particularly from the U.S. Attorney's office in Baltimore, and had received "a good reponse" at his conference yesterday with all the agencies involved in the investigations.
Chiles said at the news conference held outside his Senate office that he did not think that it would be necessary to bring in an outside special prosecutor to conduct the GSA probe.
"It doesn't look like it's needed in this case," Chiles said, expressing confidence that the Justice Department and the GSA "both have the expertise to take care of it."