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Video prompts more outrage over GSA spending

From Dana Bash and Deirdre Walsh, CNN
updated 9:44 AM EDT, Fri April 6, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Video shows a GSA employee joking about excess spending
  • It follows a report this week documenting GSA overspending
  • The report shows the GSA spent $822,000 on a convention
  • The video reveals an awards program that cost $200,000

Washington (CNN) -- The same week that a report documented massive overspending at the General Services Administration, a video emerged Thursday showing an agency employee joking about the excess spending and saying he would never be investigated for it.

The video also mentions an awards program for employees that gave out $200,000 worth of taxpayer-funded iPods, electronics and gift cards to entry-level government employees.

"I buy everything your field office can't afford," raps the employee in the video. "I'll never be under OIG investigation."

OIG refers to the Office of the Inspector General, who originally looked into the GSA's spending on a 2010 training conference held in Las Vegas. His report found the federal agency spent $822,000 on the event, including $75,000 on team-building exercises, $6,000 on commemorative coins, and $6,000 on canteens, keychains, and T-shirts.

The revelations prompted GSA Administrator Martha Johnson to resign this week.

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House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa's office, which is investigating the excess spending, received the video from the inspector general and released it to the public on Thursday.

The video was the winning entry in an employee video contest at the 2010 conference. In handing out the award for the video, the deputy commissioner of the Public Building Service appears to mock oversight of the GSA.

The revelations about the GSA's overspending are prompting outrage among lawmakers who are furious about taxpayer money being wasted. The inspector general's staff briefed congressional investigators Wednesday, and a source familiar with the briefing told CNN they were "pretty astonished at the blatant misuse of funds."

Rep. John Mica, R-Florida, chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and Rep. Jeff Denham, R-California, chairman of the Subcommittee on Economic Development, plan to hold a hearing on the matter April 19.

"Over the course of the past few days, some of the outrageous spending habits of the GSA have surfaced, and it is unbelievable," Mica said in a statement Thursday. "First, it was reported that the agency spent $800,000 on a lavish training conference in Las Vegas, and yesterday we learned of an equally over-the-top employee award program that handed out $200,000 worth of taxpayer funded iPods, electronics and gift cards for questionable reasons at best."

More damaging videos may soon emerge. A congressional source familiar with the investigation of the GSA told CNN on Thursday that the agency had an internal website with video clips and pictures from the Las Vegas conference.

The site isn't online anymore, but Issa's committee is demanding more information about it.

A GSA spokesman issued a statement saying, "This video is another example of the complete lack of judgment exhibited during the 2010 Western Regions Conference. Our agency continues to be appalled by this indefensible behavior, and we are taking every step possible to ensure that nothing like this ever happens again."

Mica's committee was already looking into the GSA's budget when this week's report came out. Earlier this year, committee members noticed that, at a time when other federal agencies' administrative budges were being cut and going down, the GSA's was dramatically increasing.

The committee requested more details from the GSA about its budget and held hearings on the issue. The GSA witness at the hearings, Robert Peck, promised details but committee members did not receive them.

A congressional panel said Tuesday that Peck was fired.

Before she stepped down, GSA Administrator Johnson called the details in the report "egregious" and "absolutely unacceptable." She also announced measures including disciplinary action against several senior management officials.

Among other items cited in the inspector general's report was a $12,000 finder's fee paid to an outside company to book the resort complex for the convention, even though the GSA has planners on staff for that very purpose.

The report said the GSA portrayed certain events as awards ceremonies simply to justify the catering bill.

It was a GSA deputy administrator who initially asked for the investigation, saying there was questionable spending for the 2010 event.

The GSA employs nearly 13,000 people across the country and is the federal agency that buys and manages goods and services for the government, ranging from envelopes to real estate and office buildings.

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