Hearing Shows GSA's Dysfunction

Despite a much-publicized report and warnings about misuse of public funds by the General Services Administration, a previously obscure government agency that handles government real-estate and non-military procurement, to organize an $800,000 conference at a Las Vegas casino, nothing stopped GSA member Jeff Neely from squandering government money for his personal use. In March 2012, Jeff Neely was put on paid administrative leave and asked to appear in front of the House Committee, a committee set up to check corruption, fraud and waste, but he claimed his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and refused to show up.

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However, certain points that require attention have come up. The GSA’s structure is such that the CFO does not directly oversee spending of the regional offices. Also, Neely was supposed to report to two supervisors at the time of his alleged misconduct – one supervisor, Robert Peck, claimed to be unaware about the spending excesses at the Las Vegas conference and recommended Neely for a bonus immediately after it, and the second supervisor’s position was intermediately being held by Neely himself. Money was wasted in the form of gifts for conference attendees, hosting “fake” award functions to avoid the strict rules for supplying food at government work conferences, repeated “scouting visits” to Las Vegas by officials and their families, excessive employee incentive programs, etc.

With the election coming up soon, the Republicans are using this case to highlight the current government’s abuse of power and misuse of tax-payers’ money at a time when unemployment rate is almost twice the usual, while the Democrats claim that GSA spending has always been over-the-top and call attention to the fact that this situation is the result of a few miscreants rather than a bad system.

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