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.

For reaction from industry leaders, click here.

About the Author

Camille Tuutti is a former FCW staff writer who covered federal oversight and the workforce.

Reader Comments

Fri, Apr 6, 2012 Matt Chicago

It would seem that the focus should be on senior management and assuring they understand the ethical rules of behavior for Government Employees. Focussing on travel is the symptom not the disease. People who do not realize that they are stewards of the public trust. This was a complete disregard for the rules that are in place. The result is the hard working people of GSA now have a black eye and the offendors will walk into a private sector job.

Thu, Apr 5, 2012 John North Carolina

I was a member of GSA for a number of years and realize that the organization as a whole will take the proverbial hit on this, the real emphasis should be placed on the practices of portions of PBS and not a reflection of the personnel of the FAS and Central Office personnel/contracting staff. The "leadership" that was removed for cause are in most cases may not be the true culprits- who directed/hosted the event (the regional afminstrator ???. What was specifically directed and by whom-was the CO or subordinate laeadership using the proverbial "they told me to make it "GREAT". What actios are being taken to the associates that actually set it up or provided priviledged information to the contractor? Not to mention why would anyone go to Las Vegas after our president basically told everyone to save their money. Not sure if you get the drift

Thu, Apr 5, 2012

The real bad management decision by Ms Johnson was waiting for the IG Report. She knew long before that the event was "over the top" and she did nothing! The problem did not get better waiting it just grew worse and she was a failure as a manager so now she can go back to being a VP for soft skills and love fests. Mr Obama where do you find such weak appointees and Supreme Court Justices?

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