Saturday, June 2, 2012

Another Fine Mess GSA Has Gotten Itself Into

Former GSA executive Jeffrey Neely bears just a little bit of a resemblance to Oliver Hardy, no?

Maybe he's a fan, because he used a classic Hardy-ism in an e-mail that was released to the media by the Issa Committee yesterday, part of a document dump that exposed another astonishing abuse of the taxpayer by the U.S. General Services Administration.

From the WaPo this morning, ‘Virtual’ GSA employees spent $750,000 on travel over nine months:

Ninety-five high-ranking employees at the General Services Administration who are assigned to work from home racked up $750,000 in travel expenses over nine months, documents show, prompting concerns from agency officials but no action to curtail the expenses.

-- snip --

Even the executive, Jeffrey Neely, was surprised to learn of the travel expenses for the 95 employees who work from their homes, according to e-mails and other documents provided to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, which oversees the federal workforce.

“OMG,” Neely wrote in an e-mail last October to a colleague, Regional Commissioner Robin Graf, who had sent a spreadsheet to several managers with a breakdown of the travel reimbursement costs for “virtual” employees. She expressed concern about a lack of oversight of these employees.

100 virtuals and most of them with some pretty serious grades,” Neely wrote, referring to the employees’ General Schedule status. “[W]ell this is a fine mess we’ve gotten ourselves into.

Neely forwarded the e-mail chain to other colleagues with this message: “This will take your breath away. Don’t share further.” The work-from-home employees were apparently traveling to regional headquarters in the Public Buildings Service and other events.

-- snip --

Of 95 work-at-home employees, 12 are supervisors who received reimbursements of more than $200,000 for travel-related expenses in 2010 and 2011, the documents provided to congressional committees show. A majority of the 95 are listed at the GS-14 and GS-15-level.

The last word was had by House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, who played the Stan Laural-straight man to Neely's Oliver Hardy: “This indicates a lack of proper oversight and an ignorance of the regulations that govern federal telework programs.” What? This is about mere ignorance of the regulations? Thanks, I needed a good laugh. 

Well, well, well. I can't decide which aspect of this news I find more amazing. The fact that "virtual" employees working from home racked up quite that much travel expense - and I assume that is all domestic travel, so $750K equates to a whole lot of trips - is pretty good all by itself.

Even more amazing is that GSA has at least 48 ("a majority of the 95") employees at the GS-14 and GS-15 levels working from home. What kind of work can be done at home that justifies a GS-14 or GS-15 position? Those are as high as the General Schedule goes, after which it's Senior Executive Service. The 2012 General Service pay scales show the base pay for the lowest step of the 14 level is $84,000 and the top step of the 15 level is $129,000, and there is locality pay on top of that for almost all of the places where GSA employees live.

I don't know what kind of senior executive work these GSA employees can legitimately do from home in the first place, but, most amazing of all, twelve of them are supervisory employees. Aren't they supposed to be supervising someone other than themselves? I mean, that supervisory responsibility must have been part of the job description that justified their senior level positions in the first place.

Who supervises the supervisors? Evidently not GSA.


Anonymous said...

That is a fine resemblance TSB. Will he be appearing on a C-Span program anytime soon? I'm sure there is a perfectly good explanation for all this.. maybe a young subordinate somewhere? And which movie is the photo from? gwb

Anonymous said...

Speaking of "Fine Messes" this is the best (and scariest) counter I have seen to the Krugman's, Reich's, Bernankes regarding our near term future. It's the derivatives they never dealt with that spell our doom.

By November I think Pres. Obama will be very happy to be leaving as a one term President. gwb

Anonymous said...

TSB: I'm starting to like the NYT again. Now they have wrapped up the whole stuxnet mess with a bow! gwb
Hmmm? Trust the whole world not to use a new computer weapon against us?
What could possibly go wrong?

TSB said...

GWB: I'm not sure which L&H movie the photo was from - just something I found on a website about them. Neely most likely will not be back on C-SPAN again, since he took the Fifth before the Oversight Committee, but someone will be stuck with the honors, I'm sure.

About Iran, the whole Stuxnet thing is a huge improvement over invading countries, so I'm all for it.

Anonymous said...

Sure TSB, but did you read the article? They are saying Isreal screwed the thing up so now anyone can use it against Siemens infrastructure controllers. (That's us!)Who's leaking all these secrets if not the glory hounds at the WH?

TSB said...

Assuming we made Stuxnet - I'm trusting the NYT about that - we ought to be able to counter it, you would think. You might even think our cyberweapon designers would have anticipated that their worm would migrate.

I'm hoping the administration's leakers aren't aware of everything going on here.

Anonymous said...

Being aware of the vulnerability, a scientific study was commissioned. Conclusions and guidelines were prepared for industry. In 2006? 07? the whole plan was abruptly shut down. The nat gas industry for one decided the terrorist threat was "old hat" and not worth the cost of installing new pipeline controllers. Industry stopped the whole thing in it's tracks and little has been done since. The scientists ignored are recently sounding the alarm. Here is the original plan scuttled by Dept. Transportation:

Anonymous said...

About two years ago, just when I was starting out my college to get my engineering degree, I landed an internship with the army. I had previously served in the Navy and I knew a guy...who knew a guy...and so on to land a what I thought would be an internship working in the capacity as an engineering student.

Active duty...I got exposed to a LOT of waste from material, to the irritating fact that the military's answer to any problem is to just throw man-hours at something. So this wasn't my first time around the block with a workforce not as motivated as one would hope.

I did this internship for about 8 months total, over about six semesters. To this day, I am not sure what anyone in that office was paid to do other than get fatter. I never even mastered the office hierarchy as it seemed to change once a freaking week.

At least these folks had to drive into work I guess. I wish I was kidding...I don't know what was the point of every single person in that office getting a paycheck.

TSB said...


Thanks for that link to the pipeline risk analysis. Also to the AGA website; I see a lot of papers there that I'm interested in.

Also, on working for a government office, I have only my own first-hand experience to go on, but it seems like the experience varies very, very, widely. I'm surprised, but the worst stories I've personally heard were from Army Corps of Engineer offices. It sounds like you might have worked for one of those?