The GSA scandal — a personal perspective

Filed in Uncategorized by on April 7, 2012 0 Comments

I used to work for the General Services Administration (GSA) before transferring to USDOJ.

The scandal which has been hitting the news is so different from the GSA I knew that it is like finding your sainted grandmother arrested by the police for having an orgy in front of the local courthouse on Sunday afternoon.

GSA had always been very strict on following government guidelines, and pinched every penny. No flying first class. No gifts. Everyone got training on how to avoid problems with the ethics rules. This was so much a part of the agency’s culture it is hard to see how such a major change could take place.

I then found this article:

New video offers a glimpse inside federal agency’s lavish Las Vegas

While the investigation found the GSA’s massive spending began in 2007 under the Bush administration and continued under the current leadership, Republican congressmen leading the investigation have hammered President Barack Obama over the allegations.

“More and more information is coming out about the total lack of accountability and outrageous spending habits of the General Services Administration,” Denham said in the statement.

Denham accused the administration of treating taxpayer dollars “like their own private slush fund.”

I was no longer in GSA when Bush came to power. But I did see what happened at the Department of Justice. Political appointees completely changed the hiring practices. Instead of being hired on merit, people were hired because of their political and religious affiliations. And these were jobs that were NOT supposed to be political. ALL the key people coming in, without exception, were political ideologues.

Even so it takes time for a major change to take full effect. But I saw signs earlier when I read in the news that the head of GSA was holding political fund raisers for the Bush administration on government time in government space — a clear violation of the ethics rules. And that must have been what Bush was pushing for.

In the case of GSA, it looks like it took 7 years to get to the point of massive overspending, and undoing that could take longer. Because it is extremely difficult to remove those people who have been hired into the Civil Service as regular employees rather than as political appointees. That is why politics is NOT supposed to be part of that hiring process.

The insidious problem is that a new administration is unlikely to be aware that such major changes have taken place. The assumption is that this is how it has ALWAYS been done, and so is probably OK. After all, the civil service is not supposed to be political, so political changes such as this at all levels is unexpected. So I can understand how Obama could have missed noticing the problem.

I have always said that the actions of the Bush administration have had a far-reaching and long-lasting negative impact on our future as a nation which will take decades to correct. At the time I was thinking primarily of the damage done to our international relationships. and to the Department of Justice. I had not realized that it had reached out to other agencies as well. But if this has happened to GSA, then there is a good chance that most of our other government agencies have been similarly poisoned and corrupted.

Correcting this would be a truly massive undertaking, and quite frankly I do not see how it can be done without some sort of witch hunt of the Bush “moles”, which might even do more damage.

I really hate to see this.

 

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