Monday, May 21, 2018

Investigation widens in GSA spending case

WASHINGTON — The General Services Administration inspector general said Monday that he's investigating possible bribery and kickbacks in the agency, as a key figure in a GSA spending scandal asserted his right to remain silent at a congressional hearing.

Inspector general Brian Miller, responding to a question at the hearing, said: "We do have other ongoing investigations, including all sorts of improprieties, including bribes, including possible kickbacks."

Jeffrey Neely, who asserted his Fifth Amendment privilege before the committee, has been placed on leave as a regional executive in Western states.

Neely, summoned before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, could face a criminal investigation by the Justice Department, where his case was referred by the inspector general.

Neely was largely responsible for an $823,000 Las Vegas conference in 2010 that was the focus of Miller's report. Three other congressional committees also are looking at the conference spending and a culture of waste at the agency in charge of federal buildings and supplies

"Mr. Chairman, on advice of counsel I decline to answer based on my constitutional privilege," Neely said in response to questions from Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif.

The conference was the subject of a highly critical report by Miller issued on April 2. Taxpayers picked up the tab for a clown, a mind reader and bicycles for a team-building exercise.

Martha Johnson, who resigned as chief of the agency after the inspector general's report was issued, said the Western Regions Conference "had evolved into a raucous, extravagant, arrogant, self-congratulatory event."

Johnson, whom lawmakers accused of sitting on the findings for 11 months after receiving an interim briefing from the inspector general, apologized "to the American people for the entire situation.''

The Oversight Committees released internal memos that showed GSA officials debated last year whether to give Neely a bonus for his job performance. The officials were aware at the time that the inspector general was investigating the conference spending.

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