Government Agency Spent Over $400,000 on Incentive and Promotional Products, Investigation Shows
Days later, the House Transportation and Infrastructure committee issued a statement claiming that the GSA's "Hats Off" program, which allows employees to receive points redeemable for awards, "handed out $200,000 worth of taxpayer-funded iPods, electronics and gift cards for questionable reasons at best."
According to the Washington Post, the amount on all awards for GSA employees was much higher. In addition to the high-priced items like iPods and digital cameras, the "Hats Off" store let employees redeem credits for mugs, hats, mouse pads and other promotional items embellished with the GSA logo. In total, The Post reported $438,750 was spent on employee incentives between 2007 and 2010.
"The Hats Off award program degenerated into a taxpayer-funded give-away where employees handed out iPods to their office buddies for almost any reason," said Rep. John Mica, chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure committee. The GSA's guidelines limit awards to $99 per employee, per year, but several employees were gaming the system by exchanging award credits. "Not surprisingly the IG report identified the supervisors who ran the Hats Off store as the biggest winners of taxpayer swag. There was no accountability at GSA," Mica said.
Members of the House said there may have been more abuses of taxpayer funds by the GSA as well as other departments. "We're going to hold a hearing on this and find out not only every detail that was in the investigation, we actually want to subpoena those involved in this lavish spending and see how far this culture goes within other agencies," said Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Calif., chairman of the Subcommittee on Economic Development. Denham said a hearing on the spending, held in conjunction with the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, is scheduled for April 19.