House oversight committee OKs GSA-inspired bills

Friday - 6/29/2012, 7:15pm EDT

By Taeja Smith
Special to Federal News Radio

Two new bills have advanced to the House floor in response to the recent GSA spending scandal. The bills, if approved, will require agencies to provide detailed reports on all conference spending and hold executives accountable for misappropriations of funding.

The Government Spending Accountability and Transparency Act (GSA ACT), which the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee approved this week, would cap non-military travel spending at 70 percent of fiscal year 2010 levels. This bill also mandates that agencies submit an itemized quarterly report on costs accrued during a conference.

"We must hold federal agencies accountable to the American taxpayer," said Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill), the bill's sponsor. "The growing culture of waste and abuse in Washington must stop. The American people are still struggling. The government should be setting an example of fiscal responsibility instead of lavishly spending taxpayer money. I look forward to working with leadership from both parties to bring this important measure to the House floor for passage."

The bill requires:

  • The head of each agency to report to the relevant committee of Congress any meetings that are held at a non-government location.
  • Any attendance by 50 or more employees, or if the conference total more than $100,000, must be recorded and reported to Congress.
  • Exclusion of the mandate only applies if the report is not of national security interest, or a possible threat to health, safety or other emergency arise when recording data.

The oversight committee also approved three other bills, including one giving agencies more disciplinary options to use against any senior executive who commits a crime.

The Government Employee Accountability Act, H.R. 6016, gives agencies more power to use an administrative leave of absence against those employees.

"When someone violates the public trust to the extent that Jeff Neely and others like him have, said, they sure as heck shouldn't be collecting pay without even having to clock in," Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Penn.), who introduced the bill. "The hardworking people I represent sometimes work two or three jobs just to get by, and that means getting out of bed and getting out of the house. To think that an SES employee under investigation for wrongdoing can play a round of golf or sleep in all day while still getting generously paid is an outrage. H.R. 6016 sends a clear signal to all SES employees that their positions of authority and responsibility are taken seriously by us, the taxpayers, and it should be taken seriously by them as well."

At the end of administrative-leave period, the head of the agency can suspend the employee without pay or restore the employee to duty, among a range of other options.

Taeja Smith is an intern with Federal News Radio.

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