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Analysis: GSA Scandal Could Mean Changes For Buildings Service

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Tom Shoop, GovExec editor-in-chief

Fallout from a spending binge at the General Services Administration is continuing into a second week. An inspector general's report publicized last week detailed what it called "inappropriate spending" on a GSA training conference totaling more than $820,000. The head of the agency fired two staffers before resigning. Four additional employees had been placed on administrative leave.

Now a fifth employee is on leave after the release of video showing staffers bragging about lavish spending and at least three Congressional panels are scheduling hearings on the issue. Tom Shoop, editor-in-chief of Government Executive, talks with WAMU Morning Edition host Matt Bush about what comes next for the agency. Here are some highlights:

Whether the GSA fallout could extend further: "I think there may be further actions taken," Shoop says. "For one thing, five of the employees are on administrative leave. They could lose their jobs, ultimately. It takes a little longer for career federal employees to go through the proceedings for that kind of thing to happen."

On how common these kinds of conferences are at GSA: "This is a highly unusual amount of spending that increased dramatically over the years this conference has been held," Shoop says. "And I think it's an indication that this particular part of the agency in this region was sort of out of control in a way that's really atypical for government." 

On what's likely to come out of several congressional hearings on this topic: "It's very likely there will be increased scrutiny, increased regulations and laws regarding spending on conferences … and on employee rewards," Shoop says. "There will be an open question as to how the Public Buildings Service operates. Its regional administrators have a lot of control over funding, so the question will be whether Congress will move to reign in that authority."

Whether subsequent legislation could result from the hearings: "It's difficult, traditionally, to drum up support for legislation about the administrative operations of government, but in this case the scandal has reached very wide proportions so that might make a difference," Shoop says. "The other issue is whether or not Congress will want to curtail its own authority over how this money is spent. Congress typically likes having the Public Buildings Service regional administrators have a fair amount of latitude so they can go to them, for example, and say, 'I'd like to have a courthouse in my district.'"

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