Saturday Jul 21, 201212:54 AM GMT
GSA spent $269,000 on one-day conference
Sat Jul 21, 2012 12:53AM
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The General Services Administration held a one-day event at a cost topping a quarter of a million dollars less than a month after spending more than $823,000 at a Las Vegas conference that triggered a shake-up of the agency.


The GSA's inspector general is investigating a $269,000 awards ceremony that featured a guitarist, violinist and $21,000 in drumsticks given to participants, according to a letter on Thursday [July 19], from Inspector General Brian Miller to Senator Claire McCaskill, chairman of a Senate subcommittee on contracting oversight. The event in November 2010 took place in Arlington, Virginia, about a 12-minute drive from the GSAs offices in Washington.


U.S. lawmakers have been scrutinizing the agency since an April 2 report by the inspector general exposed lavish spending at a gathering at the M Resort Spa Casino in Henderson, Nevada, near Las Vegas. GSA Administrator Martha Johnson resigned amid the scandal and the inspector general has referred the matter to the Department of Justice.


Dan Tangherlini, who replaced Johnson as GSA acting administrator in April, brought the incident to the inspector general's attention, according to Miller's letter. Miller wrote that his office has "opened an administrative investigation."


"Under the new GSA leadership, this event and type of spending is not tolerated," Betsaida Alcantara, GSA's communications director, said in an e-mailed statement.


The agency has been holding the awards ceremonies since 2002, Alcantara said.


The GSA's awards ceremony in 2010 had a "whole host of questionable charges," Representative John Mica, a Florida Republican who heads the House transportation committee, which in part oversees GSA, said at a press conference Thursday.


Mica said his committee is also investigating the event at the Crystal Gateway Marriott. In addition to the drumsticks, it included $21,000 in catering charges and $28,000 for 4,000 "time temperature picture frames," according to Miller's letter.


Taxpayers have funded at least $27.8 million in GSA conferences since 2005, almost a third of it spent in the popular vacation spots of Las Vegas, New Orleans and Orlando, Florida.


Tangherlini told lawmakers in April that he had canceled 35 GSA conferences in response to the inspector general report, saving taxpayers $995,686. On April 15, he issued a memorandum stating that "all travel for internal GSA meetings, training, conferences, seminars, leadership or management events" would be suspended until the end of the fiscal year, with some exceptions.




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