The Public Building Service of the General Services Administration gave away $438,750 in gifts and awards to employees between 2007 and 2010, according to a statement by the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.
When it started in 2001, the employee awards program offered GSA-labeled mouse pads, mugs and backpacks. But eventually they included items such as iPods, according to the committee, which oversees the GSA.
Public Building Service employees received $328-worth of gifts in fiscal year 2009. GSA regulations limit awards to $99 per employee.
The GSA has come under fire after an inspector general report revealed the Pacific Rim office paid $823,000 for a Las Vegas training conference.
The Pacific Rim office gave out at least $200,000 in gifts to employees under the program.
The awards program was based on a point system that employees could then redeem for gifts. There were few limits on how points could be given, congressional sources said.
According to the statement, the acting commissioner for the Pacific Rim region received a $9,000 bonus despite the ongoing inspector general investigation into a 2010 training conference. The administrator, a member of the senior executive service, received the bonus in 2011 even though a performance review board recommended he not receive one according to a congressional staff member familiar with the details of the investigation.
The Post has identified the acting regional administrator as Jeffrey Neely, who was placed on administrative leave following the inspector general’s findings. Neely, though not identified by name in the watchdog report, asked that the conference be “over the top,” according to the document. The conference included a clown, a mentalist and $7,000 for sushi.
“Part of GSA’s mission is to instill transparency in government and unfortunately we are still learning more and more about the waste and abuse by federal employees,” said Rep. Jeff Denham(R-Calif.), who chairs the Transportation subcommittee on public buildings. “The American people deserve better than this, and I intend to investigate this to its fullest extent.”
Denham’s subcommittee will begin hearings on the inspector general’s report April 19.
A GSA spokesman said Friday, “GSA’s regional ‘Hats Off’ stores have closed their doors across the country. Operations have been suspended pending a continuing top down review of all spending.”
GOP lawmakers have been pounding the Obama administration on the GSA spending since the report’s release Monday. On Thursday, the office of House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) released a video of a GSA employee bragging about the spending and mocking the idea of being held accountable by the inspector general’s office.
The administration had tried to get ahead of the scandal, noting this week its swift reaction in cleaning house at GSA. It also has pointed out that President Obama issued a directive to all agencies last year to review expenses on travel and conferences. Administration officials said it has saved $280 million.