The Washington Post

GSA regional office rewards program divvied up $200,000 in gifts

This story has been updated.

The General Services Administration’s regional agency that has come under fire for a lavish employee conference in Las Vegas gave away more than $200,000-worth of iPods, gift cards and other items to employees as part of a staff award program.

General Services Administration Administrator Martha Johnson resigned Monday following revelations of lavish spending on an agency conference. (Brendan Smialowski)

According to a statement by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, the awards had little relation to employee performance.

“People could be given points for anything from a quality work product to simply brightening the workplace and being a pleasant person,” said a Hill staffer, present at a GSA inspector general briefing given to staff members of the Transportation and Infrastructure committee on Wednesday. “You could give and receive points to and from anyone and there was nothing preventing quid-pro-quo.”

The staffer spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to disclose further details from the briefing.

It was the Pacific Rim region that organized the 2010 conference that cost $823,000 and included penthouse suites, a clown and a mentalist. GSA Administrator Martha N. Johnson resigned Monday following revelations of the conference, and two of her senior assistants were fired.

According to a staffer present at the April 4 briefing, the program was conceived by the Pacific Region’s public building’s administrator, who The Post has identified as Jeffrey Neely.

“I am stunned by the squandering of taxpayer funds at a time when millions of Americans were still feeling the effects of the 2008 financial crisis,” D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D), the ranking member on the House subcomittee that oversees GSA, said in a statement. “I join President Obama in condemning the spending, contracting and other excesses that characterized the conference from planning to execution.”

The House subcommittee on public buildings, chaired by Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Calif.) will begin a hearing on GSA on April 19.

“There must be serious consequences for this type of blatant waste of taxpayer dollars, and the Committee intends to hold those responsible fully accountable,” Denham said in a statement.


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