I was hoping that I could stop commenting on the GSA scandal and get back to some of the fun stuff from Confessions. Well, just when you think the dragon has been slain it rears its ugly head again. Notwithstanding my prior opinions, the GSA scandal is not over after all – in fact it’s gathering more momentum.
In my previous comments maybe I underestimated the magnitude of the so-called scandal but I’m not about to rescind my prior comments about this starting out as a political power play and about all the political grandstanding that it generated. In my prior posts I never defended any of the excessive spending. I merely said that it was a management failure that could have and should have been addressed and corrected by the very people who generated the controversy, rather than making it a political and media frenzy. All I defended were the good names of the people railroaded into disciplinary action as the result of the well documented White House demand for quick action at any cost.
Considering the hoopla after round one of the scandal, the punishments were rather light. Those responsible for this bad judgment are gone from the agency, but others were disciplined merely for their presence, not their involvement. I still maintain my prior position that this will come back to haunt the agency, but it will be after the election in sealed settlements that nobody ever hears about.
Now we have revelations about new conferences, excessive bonuses and general slipshod control over budgets. No surprise. I certainly can’t defend it but I’ll defer judgment until I hear from the accused on this and until the inspector general tells us the complete story – not just out of context excerpts. At Chairman Mica’s most recent hearing Ms. Metzler, the GSA witness, was raw meat for the lions since she is new and didn’t know beans about most of what she was questioned about. Her main purpose seemed to be to heap praise on the acting administrator. When Mr. Miller was asked for specifics about his “referrals” to Department of Justice he was sweating like a tankard of cold beer. I’ll bet most of the 486 referrals mentioned went back to GSA for administrative, not criminal action. As for criminal referrals to DOJ, I’ll apologize in Macy’s window if anyone can tell me that it represents more than a handful of the total and most will involve contractors, not GSA employees. As much as I criticize the Congress, I’m sure the chairman knows bs when he hears it and he had every right to feel stonewalled. One thing I will say about the most recent hearing is that there was far less election year grandstanding, although the comment equating health care reform with waste at GSA was a bit gratuitous.
I’m still waiting to hear about the IG criminal referrals from the original embellished report four months ago. I made a few pithy comments about that in my last post and You Tube video. As I said in the past, DOJ will not prosecute without solid evidence, not just innuendos. I’ve yet to see any evidence that DOJ has accepted anything for prosecution. It’s been four months since the initial report and 22 months since the Las Vegas caper. Stupidity and horrendous judgment are unacceptable behavior but not criminal.
It is interesting that some of the people missing from the last hearing were the very people who either identified the situation or were tasked with correcting it. Some had been at a few of the 77 conferences now being investigated by the IG. Are they going to be disciplined because of association like a few in the first group? I don’t think so. I don’t hear the White House calling for heads to roll either because this will be even more embarrassing to the agency and the administration. I am also surprised that at the last hearing nobody asked Mr. Miller about IG conferences and whether he received any of the excessive bonus money. Do the numbers. Based upon the percentage of GSA employees who purportedly received bonuses, I would have to think the Office of the Inspector General received some of the pot. Things are getting more interesting by the day.
Yes, a culture change is due at GSA. When I wrote Confessions I made a few comments about GSA’s unwavering support of the hospitality and travel industries, never imagining that someday the issue would be a national scandal.
The committee also made an issue of a major lease being signed by GSA in the absence of the required congressional approval. This is personal. The lease came out of my former region and I know my people were not dumb enough to do something illegal. What the report doesn’t mention is the intense pressure coming from other parts of the congress to enter into this lease and certain extenuating legal issues which might have negated the need for approval in the first place. I’ll wait until I hear from all sides on this one before making a judgment.