More Details About the GSA’s Junket for Interns

Fresh detail is coming out about the conference the General Services Administration [GSA] regional office hosted for interns at a luxury Palm Springs resort (see EMac’s Bottom Line Exclusive: Taxpayers Paid for GSA Intern Conference)

The GSA’s junket for interns is another chapter in the growing controversy over the more than $822,000 in taxpayer money blown on a conference in Las Vegas in 2010.

The GSA paid for a week-long conference for GSA interns the week of May 10-14, 2010, at the Palm Springs Riviera Resort and Spa. About 120 interns and 20 GSA Region 9 executives attended, according to information from the GSA Inspector General and interviews with GSA employees assembled by Congressional investigators for Congressmen Jeff Denham (R-Ca.) and John Mica (R-Fl.)

The congressmen will lead a Congressional oversight hearing on Tuesday, April 17.

“The five-day event included a catered awards ceremony, at an estimated $75 to $100 per person, which wouldn’t count against the $71/day employee per diem for meals, because GSA called the food ‘light refreshments,’” a press release from the Congressmen notes.

The press release notes that “some who attended the conference also reportedly stayed in suites which the resort’s website describes as "opulent.”

“GSA has been spreading the taxpayers’ wealth, providing luxurious junkets not only for high-level executives but for its interns as well,” said U.S. Rep. John L. Mica (R-FL), Chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee in a statement. “Interns in Congressional offices often work out of small storage areas or spaces cleared out in a hallway – they do not get sent to resorts and spas for a week on the taxpayers’ dime.”

“The extent of waste and misuse of taxpayer dollars by GSA appears to have no end,” added    U.S. Rep. Jeff Denham, Chairman of the Economic Development, Public Buildings and Emergency Management Subcommittee, in a statement.  “As we continue to learn of GSA’s extreme misuse of funds, now adding ‘opulent’ intern retreats to our taxpayers’ tabs, there must be serious action taken for this type of blatant waste of tax dollars by the General Services Administration.”

And the Congressmen staffers note in the press release that: “according to interviews, some GSA officials appear to have become adept at getting around rules and standards in order to spend more taxpayer dollars on expensive meals and events.”

A redacted transcript from an interview conducted by the Inspector General’s office bears that out:

Moreover, the Congressmen note that GSA officials may have “tried to disguise the location of the intern conference, as well as the subsequent Las Vegas conference, by citing a different, less well-known location for the event in records relating to expenditures.” A transcript release says: