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Mica: Embattled GSA Employees Got $44M in Undisclosed Bonuses

By    |   Wednesday, 01 Aug 2012 10:14 AM

It pays to be a GSA employee.

The embattled government agency 's employees are reaping 10 percent of the entire federal government's bonus checks which accounted for $44 million last year alone, according to House Transportation Committee Chairman John Mica, R-Fla.

Mica opens a new round of hearings Wednesday on the GSA probe.

The $44 million amount, Fox News reports, exceeds previous reports as part of the probe of the agency, which has been under fire for lavish and expensive conferences, among other scandals.

Mica, who is in charge of the House investigation, said bonuses totaled $44 million, with many bonuses worth $50,000 apiece. Some employees now under investigation received bonuses. One employee got a $79,000 bonus, for nearly $260,000 in total compensation.

Lawmakers also said overtime payments were excessive.  Mica cited one case where a worker with an $84,000 salary received $115,000 in overtime.

"There's something wrong at GSA when you have to pay an employee $115,000 in overtime," he said.

Though agency bonuses were worth 10 percent of all government bonuses, GSA staff makes up just 1 percent of the total federal workforce.

The embattled GSA investigation is also expanding. Another 77 conferences are under investigation.

New documents show the extent to which the agency poured money into questionable conferences, including one where millions of dollars in bonuses were handed out, Fox News reported. More than 3,700 employees received bonuses averaging about $1,000 apiece at the conference at a cost to taxpayers of $3.6 million. The conference was held in 2010 in Crystal City, Va., where employees spent hours drumming in what administrators billed as a "team-building" exercise, according to Fox News.

The scandal originated when the agency organized an $823,000 Las Vegas conference complete with a mind-reader, clowns, and a $75,000 bicycle-building exercise. Its employees also were sent on cooking classes costing up to $3,350-a-time in a bid to build “team spirit.”
 
The GSA helps keep government running by providing supplies, accommodations, and communications, and is under a top-down review after the lavish Vegas conference was revealed earlier this year. It is also being investigated after it was discovered it spent $330,000 to relocate a single employee from Denver to Hawaii.

Several officials have either been fired or have resigned as the spending scandal unravels.

Practices like this have drawn the ire of government watchdogs.

Also troubling is the discovery that several of the conferences have no record of spending, Fox News reported.

"The private company that hands out bonuses and rewards far beyond its ability to pay is going to be out of business. In the government, it seems to matter less because so many people seem to qualify," Tom Schatz, of Citizens Against Government Waste, told Fox News.

"It wouldn't surprise taxpayers to learn that these kinds of omissions occur at every agency. The lack of accountability is so bad that it's impossible to fire anyone," Schatz said. "It takes a hot-tub scandal to get rid of people at these agencies."

"They tried to do everything they could to cover up the October 2010 Las Vegas fiasco. Now, we're hearing there are dozens more. We're going to drag in all the parties involved and get to the bottom of this scandal," Mica told Fox News.

A spokesman for the General Services Administration said in a statement, according to Fox: "As of April 2012 all spending for events, including training conferences, leadership events, team building exercises, award ceremonies, were suspended. The 2010 awards ceremony was an annual event and has been in existence going back to 2002. Under the new GSA leadership these events and this type of spending are not tolerated."

But this week, even as Mica’s panel meets, the agency is holding yet another conference at the sprawling Opryland convention center in Nashville, Tenn., Fox News reported, complete with a night on the "General Jackson" steamboat, with a reception and entertainment.

The 2012 GSA SmartPay Training Conference runs from Tuesday to Thursday this week. The conference is for banks investing in the agency's SmartPay system, but a range of agency officials are attending, Fox reported.


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2012-14-01
Wednesday, 01 Aug 2012 10:14 AM
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