Saturday, April 21, 2012

Two More Oversight Measures Introduced In The Wake of GSA Scandals

Besides Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill’s Accountability In Government Act introduced earlier in the week, each chamber of Congress has introduced another bill in response to the spending abuses revealed during the four Congressional subcommmittee hearings into the 2010 Las Vegas conference put on by GSA’s Region 9 under Jeffery Neely.  Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn has introduced the Conference Accountbility Amendment, to cap government agency conference spending on any single meeting at $500,000.00, unless the agency is a primary sponsor of the event. Interestingly, this measure would not have applied to the offending Las Vegas GSA conference. The amendment would also require quarterly reporting of conference expenses on each federal agency’s website, including an explanation of how each conference advanced the mission of the agency, who paid the costs of the conference, and a listing of government employees in attendance, together with all meeting minutes, presentations and recordings.

In the House, Congressmen Darrell Issa of California and Mark Warner of Virginia are co-sponsoring reintroduction of the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act, a measure languishing in the cloak rooms of Congress for years but now expected to garner renewed support in the aftermath of last week’s hearings. The so-called DATA Act would require standardized reporting of every federal agency’s spending on a single government website, accessible to the press and the public. The Issa/Warner bill would create a new federal agency named the Federal Accountability and Spending Transparency Board [FAST Board] to replace the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board [RAT Board], and be responsible for making sure all government spending was reported and accessible to public scrutiny.

If one thing became clear during last week’s subcommittee hearings, it was that the highest officers of GSA in Washington, D.C., did not have ready access to spending information within their own agency, and that the GSA Inspector General took well over a year to ferret out what went on in Las Vegas in 2010 and who was responsible for authorizing the excesses.  Spreading detailed expense information respecting millions of transactions at hundreds of federal agencies across the internet is obviously not the answer. These three feel good “transparency” bills will not be any sort of substitute for good management practices and strong Congressional oversight regarding spending of taxpayer dollars by federal bureaucrats.

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