The growing list of General Services Administration (GSA) abuses of the
taxpayers – including the November 2010 one-day awards ceremony in the
nation’s capital that cost more than a quarter of a million dollars, new
information about GSA bonuses, and the agency’s recent decision to sign
a lease for hundreds of millions of dollars without the required
congressional approval -- was the focus of a Transportation and
Infrastructure Committee hearing today.
The following are the statements of Transportation and Infrastructure
Committee Chairman John L. Mica (R-FL) and Economic Development, Public
Buildings and Emergency Management Subcommittee Chairman Jeff Denham
(R-CA) from today’s hearings:
Chairman Mica’s Statement
We are holding today’s hearing because the latest round of GSA spending
abuses has called into question GSA’s ability to safeguard taxpayer
After the Inspector General revealed the $800,000 dollar Vegas vacation
– complete with clowns and mind-readers – GSA tried hard to claim the
problem was limited to one regional office and the guy in the hot tub.
Given the Committee’s work on GSA’s empty buildings and growing
administrative costs, we suspected the Vegas conference was just the tip
of the iceberg.
Thanks to the Inspector General and several Freedom of Information Act
requests by the media we know the problems are agency wide. In the last
two weeks we’ve learned about 77 conferences and award ceremonies under
IG review, $44 million in out of control bonuses, and GSA’s decision it
can spend billions of taxpayer dollars on leases without Congress’
Most recently we learned the Federal Acquisition Service spent $270,000
on a one day awards ceremony. GSA spent $20,000 for drum sticks, $35,000
for picture frames and more than $104,000 for an outside consultant. And
to make matters worse, we understand 3 out of 4 of GSA’s top officials
were there – the Federal Acquisition Service Commissioner, the current
Public Buildings Commissioner, and the Deputy Administrator. And because
of a Fox News FOIA request, we know GSA handed out over $3 million
dollars in bonuses at this ceremony.
But this time nobody blew the whistle. Why did it take a year and a half
and a FOIA request by the Washington Times before this saw the light of
And why did it take a WUSA Channel 9 reporter’s FOIA request to find out
about $44 million in unreported bonuses in 2011? The Committee was told
Hot Tub Neely received a $9,000 bonus in 2011, but according to this
Freedom of Information Act request his bonus was $16,000. And the list
goes on: a $50,000 bonus for a Regional Commissioner under investigation
for the Vegas conference with a total compensation of $240,000; an
employee with a base salary of $84,000 earned $115,000 in over-time; a
$79,000 bonus for one employee with a total compensation of nearly
$260,000; and multiple $50,000+ bonuses.
This despite the Administration’s own guidance in 2011 that directed
agencies to manage their awards ‘In a manner that is cost-effective for
agencies and successfully motivates strong employee performance.’
According to another Channel 9 FOIA request the federal government paid
$439 million dollars in bonuses to 1.3 million federal employees last
year. Now GSA is supposed to be the experts, the watchdogs of taxpayer
money. Yet GSA – which has 1% of the federal employees – took home 10%
of the bonuses.
This is outrageous. Here you have an entire agency of procurement
experts working the system to take home 10 times more in bonuses than
the rest of the government. If you look at this list, it appears most
senior managers are involved. This is not isolated to Region 9 and Jeff
Maybe GSA’s internal waste explains the billions of dollars it wastes
mismanaging vacant and under-utilized federal properties across this
country. This committee will hold its next hearing highlighting the
millions GSA wastes by sitting on empty buildings, in an empty
courthouse in Miami on Monday, August 6th.
And, now, it appears GSA believes it can ignore 40 years of legal
precedent and sign a lease binding the taxpayer to $350 million without
If GSA cannot even stop wasteful spending on drum sticks or trips to the
South Pacific, the idea of entrusting GSA to bind the taxpayer to
billion dollar leases – without authorization from anybody – is
And, on top of this, private sector witnesses are afraid to testify –
afraid that GSA will penalize them and their companies for working with
the Committee on identifying waste.
This agency is simply out of control and we need to fix it.
Chairman Denham’s Statement
Thank you Chairman Mica for your leadership on these issues. I want to
thank Mr. Miller for informing this Committee of the FAS conference and
for his ongoing investigations.
It is critical that when waste of taxpayer dollars is found, it is
And, while I appreciate Ms. Metzler for appearing here today, I would
have expected the Acting Administrator, the Deputy Administrator or even
the General Counsel to appear, someone who can accurately and adequately
answer for the serious matters of waste and abuse that we convened this
hearing to resolve.
This hearing is not just about conferences and out of control spending
on bonuses – with 77 conferences in just 18 months and bonuses that
exceed most salaries – those are bad enough.
This hearing is also about the billions wasted on vacant federal
buildings, and GSA’s wasteful management of properties. For example, the
GSA continues to push forward on a project that is unreasonable and
unnecessary in today’s economy and our $15 trillion national debt: the
Los Angeles courthouse project. When GSA is not busy taking vacations in
Las Vegas, they continue to build bigger courthouses than Congress
authorizes, to the tune of $400 million.
This hearing is about an agency that, frankly, seems out of control and
refuses to respond to basic questions of this and other committees.
Just last month, GSA decided to flagrantly disregard 40 years of legal
precedent and enter into a lease binding the taxpayer to hundreds of
millions of dollars of lease payments without authorization to do so.
GSA submitted an incomplete prospectus within hours of our June markup
and then subsequently failed to provide this committee with basic
information about the lease. Yet, ignoring this, GSA decided to enter
into a lease, without authorization, costing the taxpayer more than $350
To make matters worse, in response to a letter sent by myself, Chairman
Mica and Chairman Emerson of the appropriations subcommittee requesting
that GSA explain on what basis it proceeded with signing the lease, we
get an email from GSA staff that failed to respond to the official
Either GSA had a basis on which it ignored 40 years of precedent or it
Even after explicitly asking for this information, we still do not know.
I am hopeful that GSA will provide us with the answers we need to impart
adequate oversight and take steps to ensure this does not happen in the
It is inconceivable to think that an agency that wastes taxpayer dollars
on lavish conferences and exorbitant bonuses would be able to commit the
taxpayer to billion-dollar leases without any oversight.
Today, we are here to review the mismanagement and wasteful spending of
GSA, but we must and we will go further and enact real reform with this
don’t want explanations from GSA, excuses or justifications. We want
change and thorough reform at the GSA, not some negligible change, but
thorough inside-out reform that considers the value of each and every
hard earned taxpayer dollar spent on leases, programs, bonuses, and
I will continue to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle
who are equally troubled by past and present GSA actions as well as my
colleagues from other committees who have also requested reviews and
information from GSA and the Inspector General regarding waste and abuse
I will not be satisfied until I see real transparency and reform, and I
will continue to work with the Committee and with other Members of
Congress to take money and resources away from GSA so they are not able
to repeat their mistakes. I anticipate these measures will be taken
before the year’s end.