Udall Questions GSAs Waste, Fraud in Senate Hearing
Urges Completion of Columbus Port of Entry in Southern NM
WASHINGTON - U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) today called for the General Services Administration (GSA) to put a stop to systemic waste and abuse within the agency and assure that important projects in New Mexico be completed efficiently and responsibly. Udall questioned GSA officials during a Senate hearing to investigate the mishandling of federal funds by the agency at a 2010 conference in Las Vegas, NV that cost more than $800,000.
"A mind reader, sushi, luxury suites-when you are wasting taxpayer money, what happens in Vegas does not stay in Vegas, " Udall said.
Udall, a former prosecutor and member of the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee, highlighted the need to look past the 2010 scandal and focus on broader wasteful spending found by Inspector General Brian Miller.
Udall cited figures from the Inspector General's most recent semi-annual report showing $460 million in questioned funds and $376 million in funds returned to the Treasury following investigations in 2011. The reports underscore a culture of abuse within the GSA that spans multiple administrations.
During the hearing, Udall also urged the GSA to focus on the completion of critical pending projects like the Columbus Land Port of Entry in NM.
"This facility is extremely important to security, U.S.-Mexico trade and economic development in Southwest New Mexico," said Udall. "I was just in Columbus last week and heard about the importance of this project."
The GSA included a $60 million new land port of entry facility in the fiscal year 2012 budget. In December, the EPW Committee approved a resolution authorizing its construction.
"We need to root out the waste and abuse at GSA and get back to the work that the taxpayers want us to do, like economic development and border security," said Udall.
In response to a question by Udall, Acting GSA Administrator David Tangherlini stated that the scandal should not distract from important projects like the one in Columbus.
"We hope it won't, because that would add a very bad outcome to an already unacceptable situation," said Tangherlini. "We need to make sure the nearly 13,000 GSA employees stay focused on their core mission and save taxpayers' money."
Following the release of the Inspector General's report on the Las Vegas conference, earlier this month, GSA Administrator Martha Johnson resigned. Tangherlini was appointed Acting Administrator and has taken the following actions in response to the incident:
- Demanding that several key high-level GSA employees pay for unauthorized expenses;
- Creating an Office of Administrative Services to provide greater oversight and accountability for all of GSA's administrative functions; and
- Giving GSA's Chief Financial Officer direct oversight of regional offices' expenditures.