The General Services Administration official credited with helping to develop cases that led to 87 indictments in the corruption scandal at the agency told a Senate hearing yesterday that the Carter administration had given only "lip service" to cleaningup the abuses.
The official, William A. Clinkscales Jr., who was demoted earlier this month as GSA's chief of investigations by GSA Adminstrator Rowland G. Freeman III, said the agency's new inspector general has hindered his work and has developed no significant cases on his own.
"Maybe where I went wrong was to believe implicitly in the president's memorandum of support [for a continuing GSA investigation], or in the promises of this subcommittee," Clinkscales, who previously supervised 150 employes and now supervises four, told the Senate Governmental Affairs subcommittee on federal spending practices.
"But basically, all we have seen is a lot of lip service about doing something to cure this enormous misuse of taxes."
Clinkscales' testimony was echoed by Howard R. Davia, who heads GSA's office of audits. "In my judgment, the level of fraud and waste in GSA is still very high," Davia said. His audit reports have revealed major areas of abuse and corruption in the federal housekeeping agency.
Sen. Lawton Chiles (D-Fla.), chairman of the subcommittee, said he is concerned about the charges and a perceptin by taxpayers that GSA is still wasteful and corrupt three years after major criminal investigations have resulted in 70 convictions or guilty pleas.
Calling Clinkscales a "white hat" who uncovered abuses at GSA and "stood up when others didn't," Chiles asked Freeman during the six-hour hearing why the administrator has apparently promoted GSA employes associated with the scandals, as Clinkscales charged.
Freeman said he has received no proof that the employes were involved in questionable dealings. "If you give me evidence," he said, "I'll do something. I have an agency to run."
Freeman also maintained that Clinkscales' new job of supervising four employes at his current $50,112-a-year salary did not necessarily represent a demotion.
President Carter appointed Freeman to the job last spring.
Davia said that, under Freeman, "those responsible for the mismanagement I disclose often seem to be defended -- sometimes protected."
He and his auditors, in turn, feel their jobs are in jeopardy for issuing critical audits, said Davia, a former General Accounting Office auditor.
In one instance, he said, Freeman suggested that one of Davia's auditors be fired after the auditor set up a test that showed GSA'a finance department would still issue large checks to fictitious companies.
In another, he said, GSA Inspector General Kurt Muellenberg, who recommended Clinkscales' transfer, told him Freeman was "very unhappy" with an audit that suggested a contracting officer should be removed.
The contracting officer in question had allowed a contractor an extra $120,000 for construction of a building, even though he was advised by the auditors that there was no basis for the payment, Davia said. In addition, he said, the GSA employe -- who has since left the agency voluntarily -- approved an additional $1 million in "questionable" payments to contractors.
"I am very disturbed to tell you that parts of GSA appear to tolerate fraud, waste, and abuse," Davia said. Referring to Freeman's responses to the audits, Daiva said, "It's an issue of intimidation. If people are imperiled in their jobs, audits will be suppressed."
Freeman said he suggested the auditor should be fired because the auditor removed some controls that would have detected the fictitious payments and because it was possible that the checks could have been cashed by mistake.
"I don't think the auditors have a corner on the market for brains," he said. He said he would not interfere with the preparation of audit reports and denied his comments might have a "chilling" effect on auditors.
"We're taking about a perception that abound in the countryside that there's a return to business as usual [at GSA]," Chiles said.
Muellenberg testified that he recommended Clinkscales' transfer because he felt his office could operate better without him. Muellengerg noted that the law setting up his office specifically authorized him to select his own assistants.
Since last October, he said, he has referred 14 criminal cases to the Justice Department for possible prosecution, including several involving large GSA contractors and allegations of bribery.
Saying he has no intention of removing Davia from his position, Muellenberg told the subcommittee, "I don't know what I have to do to get the support of the people who have been there a long time.
"I think you're an honest man, Mr. Muellenberg," Sen. David H. Pryor (D-Ark.), said. "I just don't think you're aggressive enough."