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GSA whistle-blower testifies on excessive spending scandal

April 17, 2012|By Morgan Little
  • Former Government Services Administration head Martha Johnson testifies before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee as GSA Regional Commissioner Jeff Neely listens.
Former Government Services Administration head Martha Johnson testifies… (Chip Somodevilla / Getty…)

WASHINGTON -- The General Services Administration official who was the first to bring attention to excessive spending taking place at a 2010 conference in Las Vegas testified Tuesday to support the government's investigation and subsequent dealings with the agency.

Deputy Commissioner Susan Brita told those attending Tuesday’s House Transportation and Infrastructure subcommittee hearing that "I share your anger and disappointment in GSA's conduct."

Brita initially informed Robert Peck, the former commissioner of the Public Buildings Service, of her concerns about the need for the conference, and has since aided in Inspector General Brian Miller’s examination of the GSA. Peck was one of two deputies fired from the GSA following the resignation of the agency's administrator, Martha Johnson. Ten other GSA employees have since been placed on leave.

"This is about the waste of taxpayer dollars, and if you can sense my anger and frustration, you should see it at home, where we have got double-digit unemployment, the highest foreclosure rate in the nation, people out of work -- twice the national average," subcommittee Chairman Jeff Denham (R-Calif.) said during Tuesday's hearing.

Included in the conference’s $823,000 cost, outlined in Miller's publicly released report on the GSA's spending, were $6,325 worth of congratulatory coins for work on the stimulus package, $130,000 for "scouting trips" and "planning meetings" as well as $8,130 for commemorative yearbooks.

Tuesday's hearing was in line with the recent severe criticism of the GSA, criticism that Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.), the chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, pushed toward the White House.

"People from the White House knew about it, did nothing, kept it quiet until just a few days ago when the statement was released by the president condemning the act," Mica said in a CNN interview.

Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, the top Democrat on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, dismissed Mica's claims.

"I didn’t hear one scintilla of evidence -- and I look for those kind of things as a lawyer," he said after taking part in his own committee's hearing on the GSA spending Monday.

During that hearing, Jeffery Neely, the administrator in charge of the notorious conference, stood firm on his right to remain silent.

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