First, there’s the casual way the scandal was handled. According to the uncontested timeline that has now come to light, the lavish trip occurred in October, 2010, and the GSA civil servant who first raised questions about it did so in February, 2011. But it took the GSA inspector general until May, 2011 to issue an interim report about the expenditures. What took three months, especially given that there was a GSA internal website that contained obvious evidence, including videos, of the scandal?
More important, given that the interim report had most of the gory details about the expenditures, why didn’t anyone get fired last May?
Then it took until the following January—seven more months—for the resort to provide the inspector general’s office with all the bills and other documents related to the “conference.” How come? And if these were GSA’s own bills, why did the inspector general have to get them from the resort?
Finally, the inspector general drafted his report and sent it to GSA Administrator Martha Johnson for comment on Feb. 12, 2012, but it took GSA’s Johnson until Apr. 2 to respond, before which the inspector general could not release his report publicly. Why did that take so long?
Second, now that we’ve seen anew how important inspectors general can be in ferreting out government waste and misconduct, someone ought to hunt out the strongest and weakest among them across the government. The jobs and independence of the inspectors general in each federal agency were legislated by Congress as a post-Watergate reform in 1978. Who’s the bane of some Cabinet officer’s existence? And who are the lapdogs?
Third, the Washington Post reported last Thursday that Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill has introduced a bill that would, among other provisions, prohibit federal agencies “from paying bonuses to employees or supervisors under investigation by an agency inspector general or equivalent official, to those who have been found to have failed to follow contracting regulations or laws in awarding a contract, or to employees or supervisors who have taken, directed or supervised actions that led to fraud, waste or abuse of taxpayer dollars.” Is the Senator grandstanding, or does this kind of bonus abuse actually happen? Did it happen in the GSA case? Where else? If it does, someone ought to ask the Cabinet officer who’s responsible why federal legislation is necessary to prevent this kind of basic management incompetence in his or her shop.
5. Media hypocrisy:
Finally, because there’s nothing better than exposing self-interested hypocrisy, here’s a story I wish I had thought of.
Editor’s note: The Mar. 20 installment of this column asked for greater scrutiny of the unusual asylum request from the Chongqing police chief, Wang Lijun, made at a US consulate. Last week several remarkable details emerged, including in this New York Times piece.