The Washington Post

GSA spent more than $268,000 to entertain employees who got performance awards

Expenses for the awards November 2010 event for the agency’s Federal Acquisition Service included $34,073.38 for space at the Crystal Gateway Marriott in Arlington; $20,578.24 for 4,000 drumsticks for a team-building event; and $140,464.06 to a logistical support company. Travel for the 49 employees flown in from around the country came to $49,734.

Acting GSA Administrator Dan Tangherlini spoke during an April hearing before Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on the agency’s spending scandal. (Alex Wong/GETTY IMAGES)

Miller provided some congressional offices with his preliminary findings on Thursday.

“These events indicate an already recognized pattern of misjudgment which spans several years and administrations,” GSA spokeswoman Betsaida Alcantara said in a statement.

She said the agency’s new leadership “is leaving no stone unturned” in investigating misuse of taxpayer dollars. “When we find serious issues, we refer them to the inspector general.” She said the awards ceremony, an annual event since 2002, has been canceled.

The acquisition service oversees most federal purchasing. The agency’s other arm, the Public Buildings Service, hosted the four-day Western Regions event in Las Vegas, billed as a training conference for 300 employees. It featured far more entertainment, with after-hours parties in the loft suites of top officials, a mind reader and a bicycle-building event. In an awards ceremony that was videotaped, participants mocked the high cost of the event.

Tangherlini has slashed executive bonuses, travel and conference budgets, and he instituted a hiring freeze this week. A total of 36 planned conferences for this fiscal year were canceled, officials said.

The latest misspending drew quick, bipartisan criticism on Capitol Hill, where two Republican lawmakers held a press conference to denounce it.

“We’ve known that there is a culture of waste, fraud and abuse within the many layers of GSA,” Rep. John L. Mica (R-Fla.), chairman of a House committee that oversees GSA, said in a statement. “This proves that this is a systemic problem that is rooted deeply within this organization.”

Lisa Rein covers the federal workforce and issues that concern the management of government.

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