WASHINGTON — The General Services Administration has instituted oversight measures to prevent field offices from wasting taxpayer money, the agency's acting administrator and inspector general told two Senate panels Wednesday.
GSA regional budgets and contracting authority are now overseen by officials in Washington, the acting administrator, Daniel Tangherlini, told the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.
A confusing administrative structure and poor oversight of budget and contracting allowed the GSA's Pacific Rim region to spend more than $800,000 on a 2010 employee training conference, Tangherlini said.
"What we need to do is create the appropriate sets of checks and balances, the appropriate sets of oversight systems, clear lines of accountability to make sure this kind of thing can't happen again," he said.
In separate testimony before the Senate Appropriations subcommittee on financial services, Tangherlini said many of the agency's problems stemmed from a 2009 decision to give regional public buildings and acquisitions commissioners more autonomy over their budgets.
Paul Prouty, the acting GSA administrator who made that decision, was one of 10 employees placed on administrative leave, Tangherlini said. Prouty is the public buildings commissioner for the Rocky Mountain region, based in Denver, a position he also held before his tenure as acting administrator.
Senators were pointedly critical of the waste of taxpayer dollars, and they directed criticism at officials such as Jeffrey Neely, the GSA official at the center of the scandal who invoked his Fifth Amendment right to remain silent and attended only Monday's hearing. But overall the sessions were less charged than those conducted by House panels Monday and Tuesday, during which lawmakers sometimes offered whithering condemnation in bellowing tones.
Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., who chairs the Environment and Public Works Committee, focused on the fixes the GSA had instituted.
"I don't want to just dwell on the conferences," she said.