House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee Chairman John Mica (R-Fla.) on Tuesday announced that he has moved up a highly anticipated hearing to address wasteful spending at the General Services Administration (GSA), most notably a 2010 junket to Las Vegas that cost more than $800,000.
Mica's move comes a day after Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, announced he'd hold a hearing on overspending at GSA on Monday.
The change means that the first two days of next week will be rife with scrutiny of the embattled agency, and highlights the jockeying for position among Republicans eager to garner attention for investigating GSA.
GSA's Inspector General's released a report last week on lavish overspending at the 2010 conference, which led to the immediate resignation of Martha Johnson.
Since then, Mica and Denham have highlighted new findings by GSA's Inspector General that have also drawn criticism. One of these is a "Hats Off" program at the agency that awarded employees with hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of iPods and gift cards.
Last week, Mica and Denham said these gifts appear to have exceeded the $99 limit on gifts to employees that the GSA set for itself, and that much of the merchandise that was to be given as gifts was stolen.
"There must be accountability for the Vegas vacations, free iPods, and this blatant abuse of taxpayer dollars," Mica said Tuesday.
"The Obama administration thinks it can treat hardworking taxpayer dollars like their own private slush fund," Denham added. "Not on my watch. There must be serious consequences for this type of blatant waste of taxpayer dollars."
Last week, Issa publicized two video clips showing GSA employees mocking the Inspector General report about overspending at the agency.
Also Tuesday, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) wrote to Acting GSA Administrator Dan Tangherlini to explain the thousands of dollars in bonuses that have been awarded to GSA employees, and that this explanation be given to the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs subcommittee on Contracting Oversight.
McCaskill said the Inspector General has reported that employees who helped plan the 2010 conference were given bonuses ranging from $500 to $1,500.
"I welcome the steps taken to date to hold agency leadership accountable," she wrote in her letter. "However, I have concerns regarding whether these steps are sufficient to address GSA's culture of providing cash bonuses and 'incentives' to officials who are the subjects and/or targets of ongoing investigations by the Inspector General."
Mica and Denham also said they have invited four GSA officials who have either resigned or been placed on administrative leave as the spending habits of the agency have come to light. Former Administrator Johnson has been invited, as have former Public Buildings Service Commissioner Bob Peck, who was fired last week; Public Buildings Service Deputy Commissioner David Foley, who was placed on administrative leave on Tuesday; and Region 9 Public Building Regional Commissioner Jeff Neely, who is already on administrative leave.
The subcommittee has invited five others to testify, including GSA Inspector General Brian Miller.
Issa has also invited Johnson, Foley and Neely to his hearing, as well as GSA Chief of Staff Michael Robertson.
— This story was corrected Wednesday morning to note that Mica's hearing will be Tuesday morning at 8:30 a.m., not 8:30 p.m.