How many bureaucrats does it take to build a bicycle?
We’ve got no clue … but we can tell you exactly how much it costs: $75,000.
That’s just one of the exorbitant expenses tied to the U.S. General Services Administration, the $21 billion agency that provides logistical support to the rest of the federal government. Earlier this week the agency’s director resigned after a report uncovered numerous examples of improper expenditures associated with a so-called “training conference” in Las Vegas.
Among the “excessive, wasteful and in some cases impermissible” spending the inspector general documented: $5,600 for three semi-private catered in-room parties and $44 per person daily breakfasts; $75,000 for a “team-building” exercise — the goal was to build a bicycle; $146,000 on catered food and drinks; and $6,325 on commemorative coins in velvet boxes to reward all participants for their work on stimulus projects. The $31,208 “networking” reception featured a $19-per-person artisanal cheese display and $7,000 of sushi. At the conference’s closing-night dinner, employees received “yearbooks” with their pictures, at a cost of $8,130.
Ummm … commemorative coins in velvet boxes for work on “stimulus” projects? And middle school-style “yearbooks?”
And get this … General Services is the agency responsible for crafting conference rules for the rest of the federal government.
Which reminds us … while recent data isn’t available, a 2008 report from U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn revealed that the federal government spent $2 billion on conferences from 2000-06.
GSA is no stranger to scandal. In 2006 its former chief of staff David Safavian was found guilty of lying to Congress regarding the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal, while former GSA director Lurita Doan resigned in 2008 after she was caught giving no-bid contracts to her political allies, among other offenses.