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Congress probes more questionable spending by GSA employees

 

Nearly 100 high-ranking General Services Administration employees assigned to work from home reportedly still spent $750,000 on travel over nine months, according to records submitted to Capitol Hill committees, prompting the agency to respond Saturday to a request for more information.

The GSA said the agency, under the direction of acting Administrator Dan Tangherlini, has already begun "conducting an extensive review of our agency's operations, which includes our travel policy."  

"Our agency remains committed to eliminating any excessive spending and promoting government efficiency," the statement also reads.

The purported spending and the four-page letter from GOP Rep. Darrell Issa, chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, requesting more information was reported first by The Washington Post.  

The discovery follows the scandal that unfolded in April when the public learned the GSA's Western regional office in 2010 spent $823,000 on an extravagant, four-day conference in the Las Vegas area for 300 employees.

The new, questionable spending by the work-at-home employees attracted the concern of Jeff  Neely, the Western region executive who was put on leave, then resigned in the wake of the 2010 conference scandal, according to e-mails and other documents provided to the House oversight and obtained Saturday by Fox News.

"OMG," Neely wrote in a 2011 e-mail to a regional commissioner who circulated a spreadsheet that included  travel-reimbursement costs for virtual employees.

"100 virtuals and most of them with some pretty serious grades," Neely wrote, referring to the employees' government employment ratings. "[W]ell this is a fine mess we've gotten ourselves into." 

Neely forwarded the e-mail chain to other colleagues with this message: "This will take your breath away. Don't share further," according to another e-mail.

The average reimbursement was $8,000 per virtual employee, according to the Oversight committee's initial findings. 

"The American people have a right to know that federal bureaucrats who enjoy the benefit of virtual work are eligible and responsible stewards of the taxpayer dollars that support the program," Issa wrote in the letter sent Friday.