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GSA Misuses Funds and Improperly Awards Contracts

Wasteful GSA Spending and Contract Procurement Policies to be investigated by Congress

What in the world is the General Services Administration thinking? After all the fraud, misuse of funds and downright unethical actions that caused the financial meltdown in 2008, along comes the GSA with its own brand of greed and stupidity. GSA Administrator Martha N. Johnson resigned last Monday and two of her senior deputies have been fired in the wake of the agency’s recent spending scandal.

The GSA inspector general’s report, which strongly criticizes the agency for excessive spending on clowns, mind readers and lavish parties during a training conference just outside Las Vegas, claims that officials awarded a $58,808 contract to a large audio and visual services firm, Royal Productions, when federal regulations require contracts of such size be reserved for small businesses.

The inspector general also said the agency violated federal rules by neglecting to publish a solicitation for the contract on the government’s list of Federal Business Opportunities and by providing Royal Productions with a competing bidder’s quote — thus allowing the company to present a winning offer. This is ethics 101. The bidding process must be above board and confidential. It didn’t help matters from an ethical perspective that the agency paid roughly double what the contract outlined for the company’s employees’ hotel rooms, according to the report.

The contracting accusations focus on a problem that some say has been crippling the nation’s small businesses for more than a decade. “The diversion of small-business contracts to large corporations has gone on for a dozen years, and the only thing the government has done in response is remove the transparency,” Lloyd Chapman, president of the American Small Business League, said in an interview, later adding that the procurement review system available to the public has become increasingly difficult to use in recent years.

The federal government has a stated goal of awarding 23 percent of contract dollars every year to small businesses. However, Chapman pointed to his group’s recent analysis of government data that showed that 72 of the 100 companies receiving the highest amount of federal small-business contracts in 2011 were firms that exceeded the Small Business Administration’s size standards for small companies.

“Anytime you take a sample of what the federal government is doing and anytime you take a look at small-business contracting in almost any federal agency, what you find is money going to the biggest companies in the world,” he said.

In October, the SBA’s inspector general published a report acknowledging that small-business contracting was the agency’s most serious management and performance challenge. Specifically, the report stated that “procurement flaws allow large firms to obtain small business awards and agencies to count contracts performed by large firms towards their small business goals.”

Congress plans to hold hearings on the claims of wasteful spending against the GSA. No doubt it will be a waste of time without significant consequences for the perpetrators of the bad judgment and fraudulent activities of the GSA. I have seen this movie before and know how it will end.

Blog posted by Steven Mintz, aka Ethics Sage, on April 9, 2012