For someone who works in the private sector, this case can make you feel like Dian Fossey watching gorillas pick insects out of each other's fur -- predictable but still strangely anthropologically fascinating. A read-through the Office of Inspector General's management deficiency report on the 2010 Western Regions Conference only serves to illustrate the depth of the bureaucratic abyss. Leaving aside the mind reader and clown, one of the "team-building exercises" consisted of purchasing and building 24 bikes, which they planned to then donate to a charitable cause. "What could possibly go wrong?" you might ask, proving that you have obviously never worked in a government bureaucracy.
According to the OIG report: "GSA officials wanted participants to see the bicycles donated to the children of the local Boys' and Girls' Club during the conference. However, if the government acquires property, it may only dispose of that property pursuant to the Federal Surplus Property Donation Program -- created by GSA itself to enable all federal agencies to comply with the Property Act. In order to avoid the requirements of the Property Act, GSA specified that the bicycles would remain at all times the property of the team-building provider. Even though GSA specified the bicycles were the property of the provider, GSA selected the recipient of the bicycles (from a list provided by the vendor); this action appears inconsistent with the assertion that the vendor owned the bicycles."
Only a government agency could make me want to set fire to charity-destined bicycles as if they were proceeds of crime.
The GSA also spent $8,130 on commemorative yearbooks for attendees, $2,781 on water bottles and $3,749 on T-shirts, but the coup de grace was the commemorative coin each attendee received, each with its own velvet box, to the tune of $6,325.
You may be wondering how the idea of giving out adult equivalents of Sports Day participation medals might have come about. The OIG enlightens us: "These did not qualify as permissible awards because the coins' design shows that they were intended to be mementos of the (Conference)." So why would they even try? As the report states, the $146,527 spent on food was unjustified because, "(w)hile purchasing food for award ceremonies is authorized, the event's qualification as an award ceremony is weak, at best." Aw, close but no prize - except for the ego medal in the box that looks like it was lined with Elvis Presley's sweatsuit.
This concludes our tour of Planet GSA. Please leave your wallet behind and go back to reality.