Government Agency In Charge of Cutting Costs Spends $835K On Lavish Convention; Administrator Forced to Resign

Apr 2, 2012 6:16pm

President Obama – “outraged” by an inspector general’s report detailing lavish spending by the government agency in charge of cutting costs – has fired the head of that agency, Martha Johnson, the now former administrator of the U.S. General Services Administration. Technically, White House officials, upon his order, sought her resignation, and she submitted it.

The GSA helps to manage the basic functions of federal agencies, including by developing policies intended to minimize the cost of doing business with the federal government.

Despite that charge, GSA spent $835,000 on a Las Vegas Convention in 2010 for 300 employees, which included thousands of dollars spent on items such as a commemorative coin set, a mind reader, a comedian, and a clown.

GSA Inspector General Brad Miller brought the expenses to light; his report and Johnson’s resignation were first reported by the Washington Post’s Lisa Rein and Joe Davidson earlier today.

White House chief of staff Jack Lew in a statement said that “When the White House was informed of the Inspector General’s findings we acted quickly to determine who was responsible for such a gross misuse of taxpayer dollars. The President was informed before his trip to South Korea, and he was outraged by the excessive spending, questionable dealings with contractors, and disregard for taxpayer dollars. He called for all those responsible to be held fully accountable given that these actions were irresponsible and entirely inconsistent with the expectations that he has set as President.”

Johnson in her letter to GSA employees acknowledged that the Agency “made a significant mis-step,” as discovered by the Inspector General, “an internal conference in which taxpayer dollars were squandered led me to launch internal reviews, take disciplinary personnel action, and institute tough new controls to ensure this incident is not repeated.”

The chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., called it “hypocritical that such a large agency with critical management responsibilities across government would hold this luxurious conference at the height of the recession and even spend thousands on custom made coins touting the stimulus,” particularly after “President Obama lectured the private sector about not wasting funds on Las Vegas conventions.”

-Jake Tapper and Mary Bruce

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