Recently, the General Services Administration (GSA) spent about $800,000 on a party for its employees.
The Obama-appointed management has since resigned, but I am really ticked off. Please let me explain.
During the Reagan era, I was one of those dread “beltway bandits” who act as consultants to the Federal Government. I managed the performance of several “task orders” under GSA contracts: doing things Federal employees couldn’t do, or wished to do. Not a single “task order” paid us more than what GSA spent on a weekend party, although we oft worked for months.
For the US Navy, I and my team saved the Nation several $millions in procurement costs. A simple example: under competitive bidding, a tugboat firm that drags the USS Constitution around New York Harbor for a few days during Navy Days or the Tall Ships exhibition once charged our Government only $2.82 for the privilege. Of course, they made up the fee in free advertising.
For the Social Security Administration (SSA), one of my teams designed a system to recover what was then over $17 billion in “over-payments” … the cumulative amounts of what SSA had then paid to people who did not deserve those benefits.
What ticks me off about GSA is that, back in those days, I had to live on a $51/day per diem when I visited New York City on Government business. Back then, my far-off-Broadway Howard Johnsons cost $49/night (because our GSA exemption forgave us local taxes); a bagel and coffee in the hotel cost $9 but I could get eggs, bacon, and hash-browns at a local Greek diner for about $4. My “view” of the New York skyline included the theater across the street, featuring a movie on its billboard entitled Hot Nights and Wet Shorts. I couldn’t afford to see the undoubtedly award-winning film.
GSA contract rules say “keep receipts” … if you spend less than per diem, you only get what you spend; if you spend more than per diem, you still get the lesser amount. Makes it impossible to eat at McDonalds for days so you can go to Lutèce once.
Once again, a bunch of Federal employees enjoyed a fabulous experience at taxpayers’ expense. It would be nice if they followed the same rules they apply to ordinary working stiffs.
PS: Wouldn’t it be nice if Government Agencies and even Congress scheduled their undoubtedly necessary conferences in the most blighted American communities to help the local economies?