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GSA’s Fake Awards Dinner

I’d like to thank the taxpayers…

• April 12, 2012 3:49 pm

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General Services Administration officials created fake awards to justify spending taxpayer dollars on lavish dinner ceremonies.

According to interview transcripts obtained by Roll Call, a GSA employee said, in one instance, event organizers created a "jackass award."

Roll Call’s Jonathan Strong reports:

In the interview transcript obtained by Roll Call, a GSA employee who attended the Las Vegas conference said the administration’s officials routinely created awards to justify taxpayer reimbursement for dinner events.

"Typically at any — any conference in my memory over the last three or four years, probably even further back, there was always — there’s always one night where we have an awards ceremony and people are fed. I mean, it’s not even like it’s snacks. I mean, sometimes it’s pretty close to being like a full meal," the employee said.

Describing the award ceremonies, as a "running joke," the employee said, supervisors explained that the fake awards were designed to justify dinner events at the conferences.

"He says: ‘OK, everybody, just remember, the only way we can have food is if we have an awards ceremony.’ Maybe not in those exact words, but fairly similar," the employee said.

In addition, new documents have surfaced showing the GSA flew interns from around the country to conferences on the taxpayer dime.

The New York Post reports:

New revelations in GSA inspector general documents show the agency flew interns, at taxpayers' expense, to Palm Springs for a "networking" and a "thank you" conference in 2010.  At the Vegas conference, the GSA spent money on yearbooks, souvenir books and spent more than $146,500 on sumptuous buffets with beverages, the documents indicate.

And that might not have been the only conference.

"This was a yearly event," said a Congressional investigator. "The interns were flown in to Palm Springs from around the country."

No dollar cost has been cited yet, but GSA had an estimated 150 interns in 2010, and a big number of them attended this conference, as well as top GSA officials, said Congressional investigators for Rep. Jeff Denham(R-Calif.), who is overseeing one of several hearings in Congress next week on the issue.

The GSA came under intense public scrutiny after an inspector general report revealed the agency had spent more than $800,000 in taxpayer money on its 2010 conference. Costs included hiring a mind reader and a clown, as well as lavish accommodations at a Las Vegas resort.

GSA administrator Martha Johnson resigned in the wake of the scandal, and several more GSA officials have been placed on administrative leave.