Government Agency Spent Over $400,000 on Incentive and Promotional Products, Investigation Shows
The U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) spent nearly half a million on awards and gifts for its employees over four years, including more than $20,000 on promotional products for a single conference, a new report revealed.
As part of an investigation into the department's overspending, the United States Inspector General discovered that the GSA, which "leverages the buying power of the federal government to acquire best value for taxpayers and our federal customers" according to its website, spent $822,000 on a training conference for 300 employees in October 2010. The GSA's Western Regions Conference flew employees from its Public Buildings Services sector out to the M Resort Spa Casino in Las Vegas, violating several internal and governmental regulations in the process.
For the Western Regions Conference, the GSA spent $22,825 of taxpayer money on promotional items and gifts. The report details that $8,130 was spent on souvenir "yearbooks" for all attendees; $2,781.50 on canteens and carabiners; $3,749.40 on shirts for a "team-building activity"; $1,840 for vests; and $6,325 on commemorative coins. The GSA's policy specifically states that agency funds "are not available to purchase memento items for distribution to conference attendees as a remembrance of an event."
"The excessive pre-conference planning, catering, and other costs, as well as the luxury accommodations and overall approach, show that GSA's planning and expenditures for the 2010 WRC were incompatible with its obligation to be a responsible steward of the public's money," the report concluded. "As the agency Congress has entrusted with developing the rules followed by other federal agencies for conferences, GSA has a special responsibility to set an example, and that did not occur here."
Hours before the report's publication last week, GSA administrator Martha Johnson terminated her top advisor Stephen Leeds and Public Building Services chief Robert Peck, before resigning herself.