OTR Interviews

Where does the GSA buck stop? Former GSA official says Obama appointees have disregarded procedures put in place under Bush

'Appalled' former GSA administrator accuses Obama officials of disregarding procedures put in place under Bush 43

 

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," April 16, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Lurita Doan was the GSA administrator under President Bush. She joins us. Good evening. And your thoughts about today's hearing?

LURITA DOAN, FORMER GSA ADMINISTRATOR: It was appalling. It was absolutely shocking, but it was shocking maybe for different reasons to me than maybe what other Americans saw. And I saw the question of competence because you saw the leaders of GSA, the administrator, the chief of staff, all saying they really didn't know what was going on. They really didn't think it was their responsibility to figure out what was going on. And even though after they were told, it was OK to award bonuses to folks that they knew had violated the public trust.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, explain something to me. If I'm a regional director and I'm going to hold a conference, do I submit a budget in advance, or do I submit a bill after the fact?

DOAN: Well, I have to tell you, you should be submitting budgets and get approvals in advance. However, it's very clear after today's hearing that the current Obama administration appointees at GSA have radically departed from the procedures that were put in place at least during my time during the Bush administration.

VAN SUSTEREN: How high up does it get signed off? I mean, who's the top one who -- is there, like, a CFO? Who signs off on ...

DOAN: There is definitely a CFO, but actually, it should be the administrator because what I had put in place was a procedure where budgets are reviewed every month within the regions. The commissioners review the regional budgets and the commissioners and the regional administrators sit down with the administrator of GSA -- in this case, it would have been Martha Johnson -- to review the budget.

So you're looking at the budget at many different levels, and you should be catching any out-of-bounds spending and beyond that like a dog on the bone. That's what we were doing at GSA during the Bush administration.

VAN SUSTEREN: I was surprised that the former -- Martha Johnson -- she said (INAUDIBLE) I'm paraphrasing it -- that she -- you know, for the rest of her life, she's always going to regret that she lost this appointment, or something to that effect. And I thought to myself, That's the least of your regrets!

I mean, think -- I mean, just think of what this amount of money, this culture of theft from the American people ... to think of what that money could have done to people in this the country who -- you know, whether it's a school or firefighters. You know, we talk all the time about, you know, about firefighters and teachers being cut. Well, we wouldn't have to if we weren't throwing these lavish parties!

DOAN: It's the incredible waste of taxpayers' dollars, and there seemed to be no realization across the entire group of fellow that were being interviewed by the congressmen about the waste that they had caused.

But what was more incredible to me with Martha Johnson was that she didn't seem to understand that she had completely delegated away all of her responsibilities, her statutory responsibilities for financial management, sound financial management, for personnel management, and also her responsibility to meet with the IG. She did not even with her inspector general!

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, you mean, she's got to have some -- as the head of the organization, you can't expect her to do every task.

DOAN: No...

VAN SUSTEREN: I mean, you've got to accept -- expect that...

DOAN: But you do have responsibility and accountability for how it's performed.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, tell me, this Mr. Neely, when he took the 5th Amendment -- any thought about him?

DOAN: What I saw was that you saw a lot of the Democrat congressmen looking for -- they needed to circle the wagons. They needed to pin this on someone. And by Jeff Neely, who's a career SES, senior executive service employee, saying -- and taking the 5th, that was the person. They were going to pin it all on him and sort of cordon off the White House from my blame.

I don't think that they succeeded because I think Congressman Issa did get to the point that the White House knew and knew for 11 months and took no action.

VAN SUSTEREN: How do you get rid of a government employee?

DOAN: You have to be tough. What you have to do is you have to pick up the phone. You call Jon Barry (ph) at OPM, the Office of Personnel Management, and you say, I have got an employee who is way out of control. He's a career employee, so it's going to be tough. But he has violated the public trust. He has stolen taxpayer dollars. And he has abused, really, the good reputation of the agency. Here's -- I've documented it, and I need you to take action on this. And I need it to be immediately.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, well, the -- he had...

DOAN: It's very hard and you will be blamed, but it's the right thing to do.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, well, he's on leave, but he's getting paid. How do you stop someone from getting paid? I mean, is that possible, or do you have to wait -- sort of is -- is he sort of presumed innocent, which in my -- I mean, I -- I don't -- you know, I think people should be presumed innocent, but you know, this could go on forever that he's on the payroll.

(CROSSTALK)

VAN SUSTEREN: ... -another job, I guess.

DOAN: Although it took the IG 11 months to actually get the report -- and the report seems to be final. It's conclusive. There was abuses and his name is on it. They should be on leave without pay. The government does have the option to make someone go on leave without pay. They have simply...

VAN SUSTEREN: Who makes that option?

DOAN: The administrator could do it.

VAN SUSTEREN: Which -- I mean, at GSA?

DOAN: At GSA...

(CROSSTALK)

DOAN: ... justify it to the Office of Personnel Management, I believe.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. And so GSA -- the one who's head of GSA now, the acting head, is the one who decided that he would be on leave with pay?

DOAN: No, I believe Martha Johnson may have done it, which is once again, in my mind, just another example of her delegating that responsibility. In other words, there's a lot of ducking and dodging that seemed like it was going on here, which is, at some point, you have to stand tough and you have to say, This is wrong, and I will not tolerate it. The bonuses are a perfect example.

VAN SUSTEREN: What took the -- what took the inspector general so long?

DOAN: Well, that is an excellent question because one would like to think that if you are proactive on these things and alerted folks in advance, you could actually stop the abuse from happening, stop the waste of taxpayer money.

Yes, they've sent out letters to recover funds, but that's only a few thousand dollars when we're talking about almost a million that was wasted on one event. And by the way, what's happened in the subsequent 11 months?

VAN SUSTEREN: I'd like to take a look at the inspector general. And I guess we're lucky the inspector general isn't a firefighter because, you know, the place would have burned down with a family inside by now with the way that -- the speed at which this happened.

DOAN: Well, I do think we have to be concerned because he did say at one point, very quietly, but he did say that he was looking into other mismanagement of funds. He was looking into bribes. He was looking into potential kickbacks. And the problem is, if it took him 11 months on a conference that was clearly a no-brainer "Don't do it," it was wrong, I worry about how long it'll take him to uncover the rest.

VAN SUSTEREN: Thank you very much.

DOAN: Thanks so much, Greta.