At congressional GSA hearing, Jeff Neely targeted for scandal

Issa on Monday railed against government sluggishness, asking "why did it take 11 months for this investigation... to come to light?" The OIG report on the conference spending was presented to the agency May 3, 2011, Miller testified. The final report was made public April 2, 2012. Johnson resigned that day and since then, at least eight employees total have been placed on administrative leave, fired or pushed to resign.

Johnson testified that she knew 60 days prior to her resignation what type of action she and the agency would be taking as a result of the OIG report.

Members of Congress highlighted some of the scandal's most egregious details Monday, including a $75,000 training exercise involving bicycles, $8,000 souvenir yearbooks, expensive commemorative coins, a mind-reader, after-hour parties, $44 breakfasts, food and lodging for non-GSA employees-- all of which they charged to taxpayers.

Joe Walsh (R-Ill.) asked the panel whether Neely or any other official believed the money they were spending was their own, not the taxpayers.

"We can't get into his head... but he did it because he could," Miller later testified regarding Neely's  motivations.

Johnson offered a mea culpa, saying she remains "extremely aggrieved by the gall of a handful of people" and will "mourn for the rest of my life the loss of my appointment." She blasted the conference spending as "arrogant," "raucous," "self-congratulatory" and belittling of the agency.

Johnson also made some excuses, saying that the agency she returned to in 2010 (following previous service as chief of staff of the Agency under President Bill Clinton) was deeply broken, with many empty positions, no leadership or inconsistent leadership, and issues with GSA's responsibilities.

Monday's hearing was the first of at least four hearings scheduled this week on the GSA scandal.

Partisan politics bubbled up occasionally in the first half of Monday's hearings when members questioned what the Obama administration knew when, noting that many of Monday's panelists were Obama appointees or employees.

Issa made a point at the start of the hearing to note his unsuccessful efforts under George W. Bush to reduce wasteful spending by the GSA.

It's unclear what reforms, if any, will be outlined by Congress in the wake of the scandal. The GSA has already taken some steps to reevaluate their practices including shuttering an employee awards program.

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