Foley claimed, though, that he thought commissioners were paying for after-hours parties at the 2010 conference, not taxpayers.
“There were things that seemed over the top but I did not believe they were being paid for with government funds,” he said.
Members particularly honed in on the testimony of Brian D. Miller, inspector general of the GSA, whose office published the April 2 report on the Las Vegas conference that touched off the furor.
“As detailed in my office’s report, in putting on the Western Regions Conference, GSA committed numerous violations of contracting regulations and policies, and of the Federal Travel Regulation,” Miller said. “This is of special concern because other federal agencies need to be able to look to GSA as a model of how to conduct their contracting and procurement efforts, and manage their travel and conference planning.”
Miller told Issa that reports from witnesses indicate that waste has been “widespread” in the GSA region and that his ongoing probe is looking into bribes and possibly kickbacks.
Issa asked if it was similar to the Minerals Management Service scandal that came to light in 2010, which included MMS employees partying with people they were tasked with overseeing, and eventually led to the agency’s breakup. “The Gulf of Mexico was filled with oil due to that agency’s ongoing failures,” Issa said.
Miller said the two scandals are shaping up to be “very similar — we are investigating those sorts of things.”
Ranking Member Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) asked about the reports that witnesses to the GSA abuse feared for retaliation from Neely. “This is actually shocking to the conscience,” Cummings said.
“It is a significant factor they apparently had a very hostile environment,” Miller said, adding that employees who were uncomfortable with the region’s operations were “put down and not in a gentle way.”
Particularly at issue was a hefty bonus Johnson approved for Neely last year after a review. “I gave that $9,000 bonus because I was focused on performance,” she said. When asked if she would have done so if given the chance for a do-over, Johnson replied, “I would certainly like to avoid these questions, yes.”
“When did you know you would resign?” Issa later asked Johnson.
After receiving the inspector general’s report, she said, “the thought entered my head right away: Was this something I needed to resign over?”
“There’s no wonder that the American people have lost faith in their government,” freshman Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Pa.) said. “It’s so easy to spend someone else’s money especially when you’re not held accountable.”