Latest: GSA IG makes a 'criminal referral' to Justice

Wednesday - 4/18/2012, 7:19pm EDT

General Services Administration Inspector General Brian Miller told senators on Wednesday his office had made a criminal referral to the Justice Department relating to the ongoing spending scandal. He did not disclose what the referral was or if there would be more referrals in the future.

Speaking at the Senate subcommittee on financial services — the last of four congressional hearings about the GSA this week — Miller testified that he has heard from "a lot" of whistleblowers since the IG report was released April 2, but that the number of pending investigations was difficult to quantify.

"It's a little difficult...because every time we turn over a stone, we find 50 more. Even today we found out that the wife of the [suspended regional commissioner Jeff Neely] had a parking space throughout the entire year of 2012 at the federal building," he said.

Earlier in the day, Miller testified at a different Senate hearing, where he revealed that GSA officials in Western states went on taxpayer-financed junkets to Hawaii, South Pacific islands, California's Napa Valley and Palm Springs; stayed in resort hotel suites, and threw lavish parties. His April 2 report detailed how four Western regions partied at their Las Vegas conference in 2010, which featured a clown, a mind-reader, a team-building exercise to build bicycles and a rap video making fun of the spending.

Acting Administrator Dan Tangherlini also testified, suggesting that the performance-appraisal system used to award bonuses would be "a good place to start" in reforming GSA.

Five regional commissioners have been placed on administrative leave pending results of the investigation. Neely, the Public Building Service's Region 9 commissioner, has received the most criticism during the hearings, and former GSA head Martha Johnson caught congressional ire for awarding Neely a bonus despite his being under investigation.

"I think that people watch what their leaders are doing, and they model their behavior," Tangherlini said.

Beyond the GSA scandal, Sens. Dick Durban (D-Ill.) and Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) asked Tangherlini about several ongoing GSA issues, including the controversy surrounding the Federal Trade Commission building, the proposed "civilian BRAC" bills and renovations of several federal buildings that have been delayed due to budget cuts.

Tangherlini responded several times that he had not had enough time at his new job to speak on the subjects comprehensively, but he hoped to do so at a later date.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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