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GSA finds more than $250,000 spent on one-day event

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 10:36 PM EDT, Thu July 19, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • General Services Administration under fire for previous spending revelations
  • Review says GSA spent thousands on 2010 awards ceremony
  • Source: Bill includes $20,000 on drumsticks for interactive drumming experience
  • Agency's new management says such spending is now banned

Washington (CNN) -- A "top-to-bottom" review by the General Services Administration, the federal agency that was found to have spent lavishly on an October 2010 conference in Las Vegas, has revealed that the agency also spent more than a quarter-million dollars for a one-day awards ceremony just outside Washington in May 2010.

The latest spending came to light Thursday when members of Congress were notified that the agency has opened an internal investigation into the roughly $268,000 spent for the 2010 event held not far from the Pentagon in northern Virginia.

The agency's preliminary review has determined that approximately $20,000 was spent on drumsticks given to the attendees of the award ceremony. A source inside the agency told CNN that a drum band was hired for the event and the drumsticks were given to allow attendees to play along with the band and make the activity interactive.

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"I know, it's ridiculous," the source said, and acknowledged "a lot of frustration" because the agency's new leadership is dealing with events that happened under the previous administrator.

The source also told CNN there are a lot of changes and reforms coming to the agency and that some are already in place, such as a freeze on bonuses and pay raises instituted by Acting Administrator Dan Tangherlini, who took over after the previous administrator resigned.

In addition to $20,000 for drumsticks, the agency's inspector general also informed Congress on Thursday that a preliminary review has found the spending included roughly $34,000 for the venue, including catering charges, room rental charges and AV charges; roughly $7,700 for a reception at a second hotel for the same one-day awards ceremony; and approximately $104,000 for logistical and management services provided by a outside vendor.

In a statement provided to CNN, the General Services Administration said this type of spending "is not tolerated."

"This event took place in 2010 and has been in existence going back to 2002," the agency said. "Today, under the new GSA leadership, this event and type of spending is not tolerated. As of April 2012 all spending for events, including training conferences, leadership events, team building exercises, award ceremonies, were suspended. These events indicate an already recognized pattern of misjudgment which spans several years and administrations. It must stop, and is why Acting Administrator Tangherlini has instituted several stringent new policies on spending to put an end to this misuse of taxpayer dollars."

Previously on CNN.com: Another GSA official placed on leave in spending controversy

Thursday's revelation is the latest spending embarrassment for the General Services Administration.

Congressional committees are examining GSA spending after a scathing inspector general's report issued earlier this year showed lavish spending -- $823,000 -- at the agency's Western Regions Conference in Las Vegas in October 2010. Jeff Neely, the GSA official who organized the conference, resigned, as well as the agency's administrator, Martha Johnson. Two of Johnson's deputies were fired and eight other employees left the agency. That's when Tangherlini, a former Treasury Department official, took over.

In addition to the Las Vegas conference, the GSA apparently spent $330,000 to relocate an employee from Denver to Hawaii -- and likely millions more dollars on other employees over two years -- according to a transcript of an interview with a GSA event planner. Also, 84 GSA employees, most of them supervisors or other senior staff -- all subjects of inspector general investigations -- are still collecting their bonuses, totaling more than $1 million in taxpayer money.

The General Services Administration, which has more than 12,600 employees and a $26.3 billion budget, is tasked with helping manage and support government agencies.

Previously on CNN.com: Senators encourage GSA to 'clean house'

Previously on CNN.com: Who's on first? Hearing shows GSA's dysfunction

CNN's Brianna Keilar contributed to this report.

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