April 17, 2012
Why is this man smiling? Jeff Neely, the Western Region director of the General Services Administration, is probably asking himself this question. In case you haven’t heard, Neely invoked the Fifth Amendment when he was called before Congress this week to explain why he approved $823,000 in expenses for a GSA management retreat at a Las Vegas casino and resort.
This cheesy photo was taken by Neely’s wife on one of his five government-paid recon trips to Vegas to scope things out before the retreat. She then posted the picture on her Google Plus account. Seriously. (Hat tip to my friends at Government Executive who shared the snap after it was unearthed by ABC News.)
The GSA scandal story has taken off, I think, because most of us cannot believe that any federal manager would approve a budget that included $8,000 for a mind reader, $75,000 for a bicycle building team building exercise and $44 a person breakfasts. Oh, yeah, let’s not forget the $6,000 for commemorative coins and the $8,000 for participant “yearbooks.” (There are recaps of all this everywhere, including the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg BusinessWeek and The Washington Post.)
Maybe I just fell off the turnip truck, but I can’t believe it myself because I know of federal agencies that aren’t even providing free bottles of water or coffee during training events. Honestly, I can’t think of any of my private sector clients that spend the kind of money that Jeff Neely authorized. In a post-meltdown world, it’s just not good form.
So, I won’t venture to psychoanalyze Neely’s motivations in engineering this mess, but I can think of three questions that any leader – public sector or private – should ask themselves before authorizing a mega-bucks budget.
What other questions should Jeff Neely have asked himself? What’s your take on this story?
April 17, 2012