Fraud at the GSA Much Deeper than Las Vegas Follies
As frustrated as the public is with the GSA’s Western Region’s $820,000 Las Vegas extravaganza, it is only the tip of the iceberg as far as waste, corruption and fraud goes at the GSA.
WASHINGTON — It was a simple scam: Coleen Newton-White, a government contractor, and her husband would take General Services Administration credit cards from the motor pool at Ft. Monroe, Va., and use them to sell fuel at a discount to cash customers who pulled up to service stations five at a time.
Between 2008 and 2010, the scheme netted the couple almost $300,000, according to court records.
Although the gas scheme is a world away from the nearly $823,000 spent on a lavish Las Vegas-area conference put on by GSA official Jeff Neely — including a mind reader, sushi and in-room parties — it is an example of the fraud that the procurement and property management agency faces regularly.
GSA employees and contractors — including at least one employee with responsibility for the White House — line their pockets to the tune of millions of dollars a year, according to reports by the agency’s inspector general.
With the GSA thrust into the congressional spotlight over the 2010 Vegas conference and travel spending, lawmakers have demanded to know how deep the agency’s problems run. Is there, they asked repeatedly in hearings last week, a culture of corruption?
“GSA handles a lot of money,” Brian Miller, the agency’s inspector general, told a Senate committee Wednesday. “Millions, maybe billions, of dollars flow through GSA. There’s a lot of temptation.”
The answer to the waste, acting GSA chief Dan Tangherlini told the lawmakers, is to give Washington more power over regional offices and to simplify the GSA’s structure.
But a former senior GSA official, who requested anonymity to discuss the agency’s inner workings, said centralization had already begun under the Obama administration — and it left nobody “watching the store” in the regional offices, causing more abuse.
“I hate to see it all go down the drain because these politicians who’ve never run a candy store say they want to centralize everything,” the former official said.
Hat tip: Los Angeles Times