Vern Edwards

GSA Administrator Resigns - IG Report

25 posts in this topic

Here is a link to the GSA IG report that prompted the resignation of the GSA Administrator and the firing to two other political appointees and the suspension of several career types. http://www.gsaig.gov...2C28&showMeta=0

Before you start trashing GSA with comments about how you are shocked, shocked by their behavior, keep in mind that what happened was a direct result of the rise of entrepreneurship in government that has been going on at all levels, federal, state, and local. See Laurent, Entrepreneurial Government: Bureaucrats as Businesspeople (Pricewaterhouse Coopers, 2000), http://www.businesso...urentReport.pdf:

The federal government has become a business incubator, nurturing a dazzling variety of small businesses within its own agencies. Entrepreneurial organizations have flourished since the Clinton administration came to power in the early 1990s with its goal of remaking government in the image of business. “Intrapreneurs” — employees creating businesses within their agencies — found myriad ways to answer the call for businesslike govern- ment. The resulting “government businesses” have taken varying shapes depending on their parent departments and the laws and regulations covering them, among other factors.

The proliferation of entrepreneurial organizations may augur the future role and shape of government. At a time when Americans aren’t sure whether they prefer their government to be large or small, activist or passive, slow or fast, egalitarian or efficient, entrepreneurship offers an alternative organizing principle that could bridge the past and the future. Entrepreneurial organizations offer a way for bureaucratic organizations to adopt the techniques, technologies, and efficiencies of business while still functioning within the public sector.

GSA's mistake in this case was in operating like a firm in the private sector trying to reward and motivate its people to get more business. This is what they had been led to believe that they ought to do. It is a natural outcome of the acquisition reform movement that sprung up during the 1990s during the Clinton Administration's "Reinventing Government" phase and the growing use of clueless political appointees to run agencies. Their mistake was in failing to recognize what is going on in America and realize that they were still functioning within the public sector.

Here is the Administrator's letter to GSA employees: http://www.scribd.co...ignation-Letter.

GSA is a good outfit. They'll bounce back. The question now is whether entrepreneurial government was a mistake.

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Martha resigned because it happened on her watch (not even sure if she attended the thing at all, let alone for the whole time). Bob Peck was forced out for the same reason. Leeds - probably because he's Martha's advisor and no where for him to land if she's not there. Would bet that the Reg 9 PBS RC is on admin leave since he's a career and not a political. In the end, this will prove to be a few employees trying to please a boss who said let's make this over the top and the ones who will wind up on the street are the politicals - who may have been gone by Jan 21st anyway depending on the November results.

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Vern - That picture isn't from the conference. It's from something dealing the Capital BikeShare program here in DC - I can't tell from the background if they are over by One Constitution (GSA swing space) or somewhere else.

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Seeing that report, makes me glad some heads are rolling. This wasn't just one or two mistakes and a minor oversight. I see a bunch of things done wrong. And by the agency that is supposed to lead the way in govt procurement. Should she have had to resign? I don't know. Depends on how much she was involved in the the whole process. But she is either guilty in her own mind or was pressured to take one for the agency. I am surprised I haven't heard about $500 hammers, $7000 coffee makers and toilet seats from people yet. (yes I know the stories behind those and how they came to be). But to spend like this during this economy and recent budgets (well there haven't been any real budgets in a while) while ignoring basic rules is insane. It is stuff like this that gives us all a bad rep and perpetuate the idea that the govt spends recklessly.

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I don't think it's appropriate to say or even ask rhetorically whether she was guilty of anything.

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She is a political appointee in an election year. My guess is that she was "asked" to fall on her sword. My guess would be that she had no idea of anything about the details of this conference. Nobody at her level would.... imho

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She took office in February. The conference was in October. PBS is a big part of GSA. I would be amazed if she did't know about the conference.

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in 2002, according to FPDS, GSA PBS had a "Purchase Order" to Walters Family Partnership, in Palm Springs CA. The NAICS code used is 721120 (Casino Hotels). The amount of the "Purchase Order": $970,830.00

In 2005, according to FPDS, EEO Commission had a Definitive Contract with Caesars Palace, in Las Vegas, CA. The NAICS code used is 721120 (Casino Hotels) The amount of the contract: $581,098.30

Quite a few other examples. Maybe -hopefully- these were more appropriate as far as cost and program/agenda. Sure hope so. No doubt there will be significant increased scrutiny of conferences going forward.

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There will significant scrutiny by Congress in the next few months, looking backward.

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The $14 muffin (that turned out not to be a $14 dollar muffin) was enough to get the oversight and scrutiny rolling in my department....

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Oh, trust me: When this is really over a lot of things will have changed.

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The orthopedists are going to get rich with the knee-jerk reactions to this. :)

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The orthopedists are going to get rich with the knee-jerk reactions to this. :)

One thing I have not seen addressed is whether those attending got per diem for this conference. If they did, are those costs part of the $900K mentioned or are they in addition to it? Also, what about the cost of the videos we are seeing broadcast? Just how much did this thing really cost?

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She took office in February. The conference was in October. PBS is a big part of GSA. I would be amazed if she did't know about the conference.

I'm sure she knew there was a conference, and maybe even attended... but to think she knew about how much it cost, or the number of advance trips. I just can't believe anyone at her level would know about details at that level. But, being the head of the agency in disgrace, she did the "correct" thing and resigned.

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This news piece looks bad for her

Neely, on leave as regional commissioner of the Public Buildings Service for the Pacific Rim, was largely responsible for the Las Vegas conference.

The Oversight Committees released internal memos that showed GSA officials debated last year whether to give Neely a bonus for his job performance. The officials were aware at the time that the inspector general was investigating the conference spending.

The now-resigned GSA administrator, Martha Johnson, granted Neely a $9,000 bonus over the objection of Deputy Administrator Susan Brita.

Brita wrote in a November 2011 email, that “based on what we know already” about the conference and a questionable awards program, “I would not recommend a bonus.”

Johnson wrote in an email, “yes on a bonus” in part because Neely had to serve in an acting capacity “forever and a day.”

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They are now reporting that they are holding the three officials in charge of the party in the suite responsible for the $5,600 in costs for repayment, and the $130,000 in "advanced planning trips" have been referred to the Justice Department to pursue a civil suit against the subject parties if they so choose (my guess: they will).

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I missed the first part with the opening statements and Rep Issa's questions - did Neely take the Fifth in response to what's your job title? I thought Robertson came off looking the worst with the teeth pulling to get the name of who he spoke to at the White House

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What I havent heard is who was the Chief Acquisition Officer at the time of the conference and what was their role? The CAO ia responsible for acquisition programs and for clear lines of responsibility in acquisition.

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Vern asked in his original post whether entrepreneurial government was a mistake. I think that question misses the fundamental point. Entrepreneurial or prescriptive, unchecked government with lax internal controls and ineffective oversight is always a mistake.

Same holds true for private industry, tool. As Boeing, Enron, and many others have learned.

Same holds true for military command, though I'm not qualified to judge.

H2H

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@contractgeek - doesn't matter who CAO was. In GSA that's a pure policy role - it's a lower level that is responsible for making sure the rules are followed on a daily basis. Each service (FAS/PBS) at the Regional level has someone designated as HCA and Comp Adv. And since most of the individual actions wre valued at less than $650K, approval for sole-source would have been one level above the CO, not even the Comp Adv.

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woop85 - agree there should have been more local accountability. The CAO is a political position and the rest of the politicals had to go, so why not the CAO too??? The Obama administration has made a big deal about appointes being qualified to do the job, i.e., no more FEMA Brownie's, so it makes me wonder.

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