This story was adapted from a longer story that appeared on Govexec.com Sept. 12.
General Services Administration chief Dan Tangherlini told a Senate panel Wednesday he would overhaul the Office of the Chief Information Officer to reduce waste and improve efficiency at the agency.
Tangherlini appeared with GSA Inspector General Brian Miller before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee to respond to senators’ reviews of lengthy committee questionnaires the agency had completed as part of the ongoing fallout from the April 2012 scandal over lavish spending on entertainment at a GSA training conference in Las Vegas.
The acting administrator said his top-to-bottom review of the troubled agency has produced a restructuring of authority and new cost-saving policies on conferences and purchase cards, as well as disciplinary measures on individuals, some 11 of whom were fired after the overspending became public.
GSA’s review, the administrator said, included solicitation of more than 500 efficiency ideas from employees, which has produced $6 million in potential savings. Meetings have been held with business leaders in real estate and procurement as well as dozens of other federal agencies.
“One of the key findings of our top-to-bottom review was that consolidation of the chief information officer functions provides an opportunity to improve the performance and cost-effectiveness of GSA’s IT portfolio,” Tangherlini said, announcing a plan to centralize that function after having already done so for financial operations. GSA also will notify Congress, he added, that it plans to consolidate hiring responsibility under a chief people officer.
Tangherlini has imposed a “targeted hiring freeze,” to make sure that new hires mesh with the coming new structure. He has reduced bonuses across the agency by 85 percent. And on Sept. 4, he appointed new leadership of the Public Buildings Service, bringing Dorothy Robyn over from her post running the Pentagon’s Defense Base Closure and Realignment Office.
He is planning a reduced fee structure for the GSA multiple award contract schedules to save agencies money, and he promised the panel that he would review the Federal Acquisition Service’s control of a revolving fund currently with reserves of $600 million. Tangherlini said GSA has reduced the number of agency purchasing cards by 15 percent, and, working retroactively with IG, has submitted bills to a number of employees guilty of wrongful spending, withheld some severance pay and even collected a refund from a contractor.
He would like to institute a 360-degree performance review process for all GSA leaders.
The power of the Senior Executive Service, said Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., is a big reason for the “calcified mid-management at GSA.” She welcomed Tangherlini’s changes, but called them “an earthquake for the SES. She said she was glad the Las Vegas scandal came along to “topple the entire structure,” describing how GSA’s regional commissioners, during the transition between administrations, had overshadowed the politically appointed regional administrators, who are Congress’ “eyes and ears” for oversight.