Cummings: Agencies need oversight but not fed bashing

Thursday - 4/19/2012, 9:01pm EDT

Rep. Elijah Cummings, (D-Md.)

Download mp3

Jeff Neely ran his region like a fiefdom and was GSA's "weakest link," Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) said on Thursday. Speaking to In Depth with Francis Rose, Cummings had harsh words for the embattled Public Buildings Service Region 9 commissioner.

"We had a bureaucrat in Mr. Neely who had served under several administrations, who had basically established a fiefdom where he controlled the budget, and he took advantage of it in a system that was very much decentralized," Cummings said.

He emphasized that the whistleblower system worked in this case, and said he was proud of GSA political appointee Susan Brita for sounding the alarm. Cummings had previously worked with her on the House Transportation and Infrastructure committee.

He supports House Oversight committee Chairman Darrell Issa's (R-Calif.) request for conference information from 23 departments and agencies. While he thinks the Las Vegas conference scandal is an "aberration" and not the norm, he said he could see how the decentralized budget structure could "easily" allow something similar to happen elsewhere.

"We've got to look at all of these agencies. But let me be clear: One of the things I don't want is people judging our federal employees, or even the GSA's employees, by our weakest link," he said. "I do believe this is an aberration, but we cannot leave it to my beliefs."

Cummings commended new Acting Administrator Dan Tangherlini for his swift action to resolve the decentralization problem.

"We have to try to make sure that we, when necessary, do some of the things that Mr. Tangherlini has already done in GSA, if we find any problems in other agencies," he said.

RELATED STORIES

McCaskill bill would add new rules for agency conferences

Suspended GSA exec created culture of silence

GSA officials face tough questions, more investigations underway

GSA head Johnson resigns, two others fired after excessive spending at event

Tangherlini aims to restore confidence in GSA

Full coverage of the shakeup at GSA