GSA Roundup: Relocation to paradise; congressional jockeying; the other conferences

A tourist watches the sunrise near Hawaii's Lanikai Beach. A tourist watches the sunrise near Hawaii's Lanikai Beach. Lucy Pemoni/AP

The General Services Administration spent millions of dollars in relocation costs for a handful of employees during the past few years, one employee told the inspector general in 2011. A transcript of the interview was uncovered Wednesday by the Associated Press. In one instance, the agency spent as much as $330,000 to move an employee from Denver to Hawaii -- that employee then quit the job after a year.

Speaking of Hawaii, the same interview revealed that GSA flew officials to the island paradise for five to seven days in 2011 to attend an hourlong ribbon-cutting ceremony. The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, gearing up for its April 17 hearing, pounced on this portion of the interview, as reported by multiple news outlets Thursday, including The Washington Times. Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Calif., chairman of the Economic Development, Public Buildings and Emergency Management Subcommittee, accused GSA officials of “using tax dollars as a slush fund to pay for lavish parties and exotic vacations.”

Over on Capitol Hill, there’s been plenty of line-cutting over which congressional committee gets to rip into GSA first. Politico reports that Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., bumped up his Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing to Monday, one day before the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s own hearing. This is after Issa and Transportation Chairman Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., originally had scheduled a joint Monday hearing to discuss the Transportation Security Administration, which now will be rescheduled. Staff aides told Politico there was no competition involved.

The oversight committee also has published a price sheet breaking down the expenses of the last four biennial GSA Public Buildings Service Western Regions conferences. Though held in less luxurious locales (a Marriott in New Orleans; a Sheraton in Oklahoma City), these conferences still have incurred large expenses: According to the committee, GSA spent more than $400,000 on 2004’s conference; more than $300,000 on its conference in 2006; and more than $600,000 on the  conference held in 2008. The panel used the expense tally to compare the costs of conferences under the George W. Bush and Obama administrations.

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