The General Services Administration (GSA) has dominated the news this week. From funny (and embarrassing) videos to pleading the Fifth before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, the GSA is looking for a way to advert attention from their recent indiscretions that have come to light. Unfortunately for them, I don’t see an entertainer coming in any time soon to distract the media nor Congress.
For some background, the GSA came about from recommendations from the Hoover Commission. President Harry Truman asked former President Herbert Hoover to come up with recommendations on how to restructure the organization of the Federal Government to make it more efficient. The recommendations led to the Federal Property and Administrative Act of 1949 as a way to consolidate many of the administrative functions within the Federal Government. Among the functions of the GSA, they manage government assets (buildings, vehicles, etc), assist with business relationships between the private sector and Federal agencies, assist with procurement of materials and services (through the GSA schedule), as well as explore ways to reduce government administrative waste.
It currently came to light as a result of an Inspector Generals’ audit of various sections of the GSA that there was inappropriate use of taxpayers’ funds over the past few years. Much of the controversy centers around Regional Commissioner Jeff Neely and a Las Vegas training conference in 2010. At a cost of almost $823,000.00, the conference featured outrageous parody videos joking about wasteful spending by the GSA, expensive gifts to employees, entertainment, and more. Neely was also being investigated for long trips with his wife to various locations around the Pacific, including Hawaii, Guam, and Saipan (part of the US Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands – near Guam). In a service designed to save the taxpayers’ money, GSA (and the actions of Neely) quickly became the symbol of uncontrolled spending in a government that has already added $5 Trillion to the national debt over the past three years.
Since the point of the Las Vegas conference was training, I want to put on my “GSA hat” and offer a recommendation them a recommendation. In order to save the taxpayers $800,000, why not skip these lavish training conferences and instead hold training sessions online? GSA already has information for online training on their own website, including scheduled webinars and self-learning modules, so this shouldn’t be a foreign concept. But since they are the ones who need training, maybe they need to hire an outside group like iLMS (www.ilms.com) or another group to handle the training needs for the 12,000 GSA employees. Maybe then they can go back to their core function to save the nation money.