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Congress enacting new legislation following GSA scandal

April 25, 2012|By Morgan Little
  • Congress is addressing the spending scandal at the General Services Administration.
Congress is addressing the spending scandal at the General Services Administration. (Mangel Ngan / AFP/Getty…)

Congress is taking steps toward reform in the wake of the General Services Administration's spending scandal, with the House planning to vote Wednesday on a bill that would set new standards for transparency. The vote follows Tuesday’s Senate approval of a spending limitations amendment aimed at government-funded conferences.

The House bill, titled the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act, was originally introduced by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) in June 2011. At its heart, the bill would mandate that recipients of contracts, loans and grants on a federal level report their spending uniformly, and all federal agencies would be required to disclose their expenditures and financial obligations in a uniform manner on a single public website.

The bill comes in the wake of a spending scandal at the GSA, which spent $823,000 on a conference in Las Vegas in October 2010.

The bill also includes a $500,000 spending cap on conferences held by individual federal agencies. Barring prior determination by the secretary of State, agencies also will be prohibited from sending more than 50 employees to international meetings, hearkening back to a 17-day Pacific trip led by GSA administrator Jeff Neely.

The Senate added the same spending limitations to a Postal Service revamp currently sitting on the docket by a voice vote Tuesday, after Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) brought them to the floor.

“This is all about transparency and creating a system where we’re actually getting to see what is spent on conferences,” Coburn said in the Senate.

As for the embattled GSA itself, Inspector General Brian Miller, whose report on the agency’s excessive spending first sparked interest in its expenditures, is now investigating whether GSA interactions with non-governmental entities violated ethics laws. At the forefront of the investigation is Location Solvers, a firm that locates hosting sites for conventions and meetings, and allegations that a managing partner of the firm gave gifts in excess of $20 to GSA employees, potentially in violation of bribery laws.

The GSA’s relationship with Location Solvers, along with other non-competitively bid contractors, are among those Miller is investigating as a part of his previously mentioned probe into "all sorts of improprieties, including bribes, possibly kickbacks."

Issa, who has been vocal about the scandal from his position as the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, has no doubt that criminal charges eventually will emerge from the case.

“We believe the charges could include bribery, and there could be a referral coming very shortly,” he told CNN Tuesday. “We believe he’s [Miller] made the case for a number of crimes that can be included.”

morgan.little@latimes.com

Original source: Congress enacting new legislation following GSA scandal

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