The inspector general report that led to the resignation of the head of the General Services Administration detailed vast overspending at a 2010 conference near Las Vegas, including a $75,000 team building exercise in which participants constructed bicycles.The report, made public on Monday afternoon, details “excessive, wasteful, and in some cases impermissible” expenses incurred during the October 2010 conference at the M Resort Spa Casino outside of Las Vegas, Nevada. About 300 people attended the conference, which cost $820,000. One GSA official told those planning the conference to make it “over the top.”
GSA Administrator Martha Johnson resigned over the report and her top adviser Stephen Leeds and Public Buildings Service chief Robert A. Peck were forced out on Monday, the Washington Post reported.
Among the expenses: the GSA bought “400 pieces of $4.75 ‘Petit Beef Wellington,’ 400 ‘Mini Monte Cristo Sandwiches’ at $5.00 each, 1,000 sushi rolls for $7.00 apiece, 150 units of a $19 per person ‘American Artisanal Cheese Display,’ and 225 units of a $16 per person ‘Pasta Reception Station'” for a networking reception on the first evening of the conference, according to the report. The agency also spent $6,325 on commemorative coins for those who participated in the conference and $8,130 for “yearbooks” of everyone who attended.
An administration source told Politico that a clown and a mindreader were also billed to taxpayers. The report doesn’t mention those expenses, but it does detail a pricy team-building exercise in which participants built 24 bikes.
“The goal of the bicycle-building project was that employees would work together in an
act of service to those in need,” the IG report states. “Therefore, GSA officials wanted participants to see the bicycles donated to the children of the local Boys’ and Girls’ Club during the conference. However, if the government acquires property, it may only dispose of that property pursuant to the Federal Surplus Property Donation Program – created by GSA itself to enable all federal agencies to comply with the Property Act.”
Criticism of the GSA was universal.
“This was a stupid and infuriating waste of taxpayer dollars,” Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) said in a statement. “The people responsible for it should be held accountable.”
“Employees congratulating themselves and promoting one of the most politically controversial initiatives of this Administration with taxpayer funds is indicative of the waste that exists in a bloated federal government,” said Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA).
“This report reveals what appears to be a gross abuse of taxpayer dollars and a breach of public trust,” said Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-MD).
The full report is embedded below.