Acting General Services Administration head Dan Tangherlini just posted a YouTube video addressing the burgeoning conference spending scandal — and he is not happy. The infamous 2010 Western Regions Conference didn’t just violate travel, acquisition and good conduct rules, he said: It undermined GSA’s entire purpose.
Just as importantly, those responsible violated rules of common sense, the spirit of public service, and the trust that America’s taxpayers have placed in all of us. Among other things, GSA creates and manages the rules and regulations governing travel and conferences. As a result, the actions of those responsible for the Western Regions Conference cut to the heart of what we do and who we are. They undermine both our mission and the trust we have developed with our customers — including the most important customer of all, the American public.
This will “never happen again,” Tangherlini said. He went on to outline some steps that have been taken in response to the revelations, such as an agency-wide review of all conferences and events and the suspension of GSA’s troubled Hats Off awards program, pending a “top-down review.” And in his most stinging rebuke, Tangherlini said:
Serving our customers well is reward enough. It is a signal that our commitment is to our service, our duty and our nation, and not to conferences, awards or parties.
It’s clear that Tangherlini understands just how damaging these revelations have been to GSA — and that he doesn’t want to hear anybody around him say the conference was no big deal. One of his first comments in this damage-control video is, “If you haven’t already, I urge you to read the report. When you do, you’ll see that what took place was completely unacceptable. […] I speak for the overwhelming majority of GSA staff when I say we are shocked and deeply disappointed by these indefensible actions.”