GSA acting administrator vows tougher scrutiny of events
Step one for the General Services Administration's new leadership is to examine the agency's conference and travel polices now that a scandal has led to the resignation of GSA administrator Martha Johnson and the firing of two other leaders.
In an April 3 letter addressed to GSA employees, Acting Administrator Dan Tangherlini underlined the importance of staying focused on promoting efficiency and cost-savings following an inspector general report that revealed the agency’s lavish spending at a 2010 training event.
According to the IG, the conference cost more than $822,000, with expenses that included several "planning trips" and "test runs" in which GSA employees stayed at the luxury hotel where the event was held.
In addition to Johnson, Robert Peck, commissioner of the Public Buildings Service, and Johnson's senior adviser Stephen Leeds were fired. In her resignation letter, Johnson acknowledged the agency had made a “significant misstep” and said she was stepping down to allow GSA to move forward with a new leadership team.
“We cannot allow mistakes or misjudgments of a small number of individuals to slow our progress or take our focus from our goals,” Tangherlini wrote in his letter. “GSA’s business is to solve customers’ problems; we are acting quickly to address them.”
Tangherlini, a former Treasury Department official, said GSA is taking immediate measures to maintain customers’ confidence in the agency. Some of those steps include reviewing upcoming conferences that involve travel and spending of taxpayers’ funds, and canceling events that pertain only to internal staff. GSA will also assess how its current policies around conference and travel policies, and improve risk management, Tangherlini said.
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Camille Tuutti is a former FCW staff writer who covered federal oversight and the workforce.