LATHAM REPORT: As GSA Mocks Hardworking Taxpayers, Proposed Legislation Targets Washington Waste and Mismanagement

By Iowa Congressman Tom Latham

Just when you thought you couldn’t have any less faith in Washington – it happened.  The developing scandal surrounding the wildly inappropriate use of tax dollars at the General Services Administration has added another shocking chapter to the volumes that could be written on Washington mismanagement.

Americans should be absolutely outraged.  Employees at GSA not only waste the dollars entrusted to their agency by hardworking taxpayers, they added an additional level of insult by mocking the very taxpayers they were hired to protect.

This is a trend that must be reversed.  There is always a way to make government more efficient, effective and respectful of the taxpayer’s dollar. I go to work every day to deliver on that promise looking for better ideas and better solutions that produce better results.

The General Services Administration, or GSA, is a federal agency that supports the basic functioning of other federal offices and agencies.  It employs thousands of people to supply U.S. government offices with work space, communications and transportation support and other management necessities.  Recent news reports have exposed a culture of outright disrespect for hardworking taxpayers at GSA, noting an expensive Las Vegas conference for employees and video footage of GSA officials mocking the possibility of any sort of oversight from the president or Congress.

An inspector general’s report issued last week detailed the excesses of an $820,000 GSA conference in Las Vegas in 2010. The ensuing taxpayer outcry led to the resignation of GSA chief Martha Johnson.  In addition, GSA also faces accusations that it violated its employee gift limit by handing out iPods, digital cameras and other electronics to employees on the taxpayers’ dime.   Taken together, these charges paint a sickening picture of disregard and contempt for the American taxpayer by federal officials whose job is to keep the federal government running as smoothly as possible.  While this behavior is certainly among the most appalling examples of disrespect for the American taxpayer by federal officials, it isn’t the first example of such behavior and probably won’t be the last.

That’s why I’ve introduced legislation to systematically crack down on waste, fraud and abuse in all federal government agencies and programs.  At the heart of this legislation is a proven efficiency method familiar to thousands of successful small and large businesses, non-profits and local governments world-wide known as Lean Six Sigma, which is a continuous process improvement method that reduces waste and improves effectiveness.  My legislation, the “LESS Government Act,” would save taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars by requiring virtually every agency in the federal government to implement these proven efficiency policies. And, it would have been able to identify the problems at GSA very quickly.

The latest debacle at the GSA proves that we need real solutions to protect hardworking taxpayers and deliver a more efficient, effective government that costs less and serves better.  This is an opportunity to restore real accountability to our government.  The time to act is now.