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Paulette Delcort: GSA—Goofs, Spending And Alcohol

The GSA scandal: what we paid the mind-reader could feed a family of four for months.

What is the GSA? The General Services Administration is the facilities management arm of the government.

Its mission is to "use expertise to provide innovative solutions for our customers in support of their missions and by so doing foster an effective, sustainable, and transparent government for the American people."

This is a long-winded way to say "the IRS marked up your tax return in a GSA managed building with a red GSA-procured pencil."

Scandal is brewing at GSA, and not over the price of those pencils. So what did get the agency into so much hot water?

Maybe it's the $9,000 bonus awarded to the commissioner during a pay freeze. Or perhaps the $500,000 incentive program implemented by the very officials who reaped most of the benefits.

Perhaps the bored GSA employees would be spared this scrutiny had their music videos been kept under wraps.

In one of the controversial GSA videos, a 20-something employee ukeleles  about how fun it is to rip off taxpayers and about the benefits of being part of GSA management. Apparently a GSA commissioner's job comes with a lot of perks, and none of them include supervising an unruly staff.

In another video, a microphone-weilding GSA employee hoists a margarita large enough to double as a shark tank and toasts the agency’s “green initiatives” in a not-so-subtle nod to the beverage’s color.  

Clearly the GSA’s only green initiatives are covered with presidents’ portraits and serial numbers.

Adding insult to injury, the videos weren’t even funny.

They were shown to 300 attendees during an $823,000 GSA-sponsored training trip to Vegas.

If you do the math, the outing cost about $2,750 per person—really not that much compared to many corporate perks.

I think what turns people red is how the $823,000 was spent; however, here are a few reasonable expenses:

  • $95 per person for a dinner reception (less than a bad wedding meal—not too awful).
  • $19 per person for an “artisanal” cheese display adds up to $5,700. (I’m no expert in the dairy arts, but I think “artisanal” cheese is the kind that smells like used Reeboks. The joke's on them.)
  • $7,000 for sushi comes to $23 a person. Again, not too bad unless it was served on “cheese” night which would be excessive.

One outrageous expense might be the $75,000 spent on a team bike-building exercise. This is infuriating. Why didn’t I think of it!

The video production should have been enough team-building to last a year. (To be fair, the bikes were donated to charity.) 

Another outrageous expenditure was the $3,200 paid to a mind reader for her services. I wonder if the GSA can get our money back. If she were a good mind reader, maybe none of this would have happened. Would she not have predicted the public outrage?

Ironically, none of this team building and training seemed to work very well at all. Team players know not to waste other people’s money on souvenir T-shirts, water bottles, commemorative coins and stinky cheese trays.

I sure hope they enjoyed their Vegas trip, because it looks like after spending almost a million bucks learning how to tick people off, the artisanal gravy train pulled out of the station.

Eight GSA employees were placed on administrative leave in the wake of the scandal. If their average salary is $70,000 each, it looks like the government still owes us four more salaries to pay back the wasted money.

Now who’s laughing at whom?

Dennis J. Gillig April 12, 2012 at 07:13 PM
The whole thing bothers me but worst is that reports say the White House knew about this for 11 months and tried to sweep it under the rug. It would seem that if they timely did something they could say it happened but we took immediate action. But, they didn't. Then again, $823,000 is a pittance to what this White House has spent in three years.
Paulette Delcourt April 14, 2012 at 05:12 AM
This story reminds me of the days when you'd hear about government workers in the USSR getting the perks--that was so evil! Now we have no bad examples like the Soviets to point fingers at--so we're becoming the bad example. Sad!
Paulette Delcourt April 20, 2012 at 03:29 AM
I'm actually surprised nobody seems to care about how this money is being spent. That's crazy--I would walk a block out of my way to pick up a nickel!

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