The GSA is one of the topics that I wish I could stop writing about. It is also one of the topics that keep on giving. Congress is in the middle of a series of hearings on the GSA and it appears that lawmakers are opening up a new can of worms, uncovering more of the iceberg that is the wasteful spending coming out of the GSA. It is rather difficult getting some of the information, since the man who was apparently responsible for much of it, Jeff Neely, has been sounding like a broken record, pleading the 5th Amendment. That was on the first day of hearings. He decided not to show up on the second day.
I have been reading through some of the details that have emerged during the hearings and it is really amazing at how easily Jeff Neely and some of the other GSA officials were able to waste so much of our money. Even more disturbing is the lack of concern and responsibility over that wasteful spending. I get the impression that the only regret most of them have is getting caught. If you thought the infamous Las Vegas conference was bad, you must read on.
On one occasion, Jeff Neely took his wife and daughter on a 17-day trip to the South Pacific. According to a Fox News report, that trip was intended to turn into a birthday party. Here is a short exchange between Neely and his wife.
Family members often were taken along on such trips, and in an email exchange between Neely and his wife last November, they wrote of the planned trip turning into a birthday celebration.
Referring to the 17-day trip, which was to take place in February, Neely wrote his wife: “Rough schedule per our conversation. Guess this’ll be your birthday present?”
She responded, “Its yo birthday….We gonna pawty like iz yo birthday!”
That kind of attitude is what burns me up. These people really didn’t care that they were spending/wasting so much of our money. From what took place during the second day of the hearings, it is becoming clear that no one was really watching this particular hen house. What’s more, it also shows that GSA officials had no intention of allowing the proper oversight into their spending practices.
According to Jamie Dupree, the hearings were also used by members of Congress to again demand documents from the GSA concerning certain budget items.
Also at play here is a more subtle battle between the Congress and the GSA on the details of its work, as lawmakers used the hearing to again demand documents about properties held by the GSA and various budget decisions – it is information the GSA continues to withhold in many cases from the same committees holding hearings this week.
“We smelled a rat last year, which is why the Committee requested information from the GSA about the tripling of the Public Buildings Service Commissioner’s office administrative costs,” said Rep. Mica (R-FL).
“The agency continues to stonewall the Committee’s request.”
For some reason, the GSA seems to think they have no responsibility to respond to the request from Congress. Correct me if I am wrong, but doesn’t part of Congress’ duties in their branch of our government include oversight of the finances of the various agencies that make up our government?
We go back again to the priorities of the GSA. I haven’t mentioned this before, but I have had dealings with the GSA in my work. All of these vehicles you see on the roads with government tags, the ones that begin in GSA? They are managed by the GSA and some of them are maintained at the automotive repair shop where I work. Each of them comes with a GSA card, which contains the vehicle account number and the agency to which it is assigned. Also on the card is a dollar limit, usually $100. Anything over that limit has to be called into the GSA and approved, before the repairs can begin. They keep a close eye on the cost of these repairs, as they should. Is it too much to ask that they keep a close eye on the rest of their expenditures?
Apparently so, as the GSA seems intent on stonewalling Congress and the American taxpayer. Some top GSA officials have expressed their outrage and sorrow that this has happened. The previous administrator of the GSA, Martha Johnson, resigned in protest, saying she had no idea the wasteful spending was taking place. It should be noted that she gave her approval for the 17-day trip to the South Pacific that was enjoyed so much by Jeff Neely and his family. Her resignation and protests seem rather empty, in light of her approval of the trip.
I can’t wait to see how the Obama administration plans to blame this on Bush.