Rep. Darrell Issa is blaming President Barack Obama for creating a "culture of waste" in government, where top officials have no respect for taxpayers and consider them "the other people."
In an appearance Wednesday on Fox News' "On the Record with Greta Van Susteren," the California Republican expressed anger at the latest government spending scandal involving the Department of Veterans Affairs, which has been cited in an inspector general's report for laying out $5 million for employee conferences last year.
Issa said it reminded him of the recent scandal and shakeup at the General Services Administration over expensive meetings.
"There needs to be real change at the very top in how we fund these things and what the expectation is for men and women in all parts of all Cabinet positions, because GSA isn't isolated," Issa said. "The VA isn't isolated. This is something that keeps happening and it's going to keep happening until the culture is changed."
Issa, chairman of the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee, said what's needed is "a new president" who will make sure that every department and agency head gets the message.
"It happens the same way it's been happening throughout government. Government doesn't respect your money. There's a culture in government that, you know, they deserve to be treated like, quote, 'the other people,'" Issa said.
"And it's one of those changes that has to happen across government and it has to start with the leadership at the top."
Issa said he was particularly upset by VA scandal, which centered on conferences held in Orlando, Fla., because of the tremendous backlog of claims from veterans and their families that have not even been processed at the agency. He suggested that the conferences were a complete waste of time and expenses, which included $84,000 for gifts and $52,000 for a video parodying the opening sequence of the movie "Patton, at a time when veterans needed the help of their government the most.
Issa, however, stopped short of laying any direct blame on VA Secretary Eric Shinseki, who has asked for an independent investigation of the conferences. Issa said he does not believe Shinseki has enough confidence in his own agency officials to address the issue.
"His challenge is not that there are not rules against waste," Issa said. "It is that there is a culture of waste."
"And this is part of what President [Mitt] Romney's going to have to change in government," he added. "The problem is that there is a culture of not providing transparency which makes it harder for us to see the waste.
"When we see the waste, there is a typically a cover-up," Issa continued, citing his own investigation of the federal Fast and Furious gun-tracking fiasco.
"As you know, with Fast and Furious, we have one of the worst possible wastes right now," he told Van Susteren, referring to reports that a key figure in the operation is now on paid government leave and drawing a six-figure salary from another private job at the same time.
"This is somebody who our report said perjured himself before the Congress," Issa added, noting the official on leave, Bill McMahan, is now working for the investment firm J.P. Morgan.
"We don't understand why J.P. Morgan would hire someone who has lied to Congress and will be referred for criminal prosecution," Issa added. "We certainly don't understand why the [Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives] is not only paying this person, Bill McMahan, but they're also adding to his pension."
"This is the problem with the culture of government," he said.
Issa called McMahan's alleged double-dipping an "outrage," especially to the family of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry, who was reportedly killed with a gun used in the Fast and Furious operation.
He also complained again about the Justice Department's refusal to release information from its own inspector general's investigation of the operation, saying, "We know that the IG report is finished."
"We are hoping that they will release it. We are positive that it's going to say the same thing our report has said," Issa said. "Which is, this is somebody who was responsible for and signed documents that he told our committee he didn't see, didn't know about."
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