New GSA Offering Could Avert the Next Conference Scandal


Meetings management program vendors would ensure competitive pricing and report spending to GSA and watchdogs.

The General Services Administration is considering building a menu of contractors offering services that can help agencies avoid the sort of conference spending scandals that rocked GSA itself in 2012, according to solicitation documents posted Tuesday.

Contractors listed on the menu would help centralize agencies’ conference and meeting spending in unified databases, ensure competitive pricing for conference-related purchases, minimize the risk of cancellation fees from hotels and food vendors and archive important information to pass along to GSA and government watchdogs, the request for information said.

Vendors also should demonstrate how their management has saved the government money through lowered prices and increased efficiency, GSA said.

The proposal stems from Office of Management and Budget directives following the April 2012 conference spending scandal that led to the resignation of top GSA officials including Administrator Martha Johnson. GSA’s 2010 Western Regions conference at the M Resort Spa Casino in Las Vegas cost the agency more than $800,000. It featured a mind reader, $4 shrimp and an award-winning music video that seemed to parody the conference’s own lavish spending.

The directives instructed agencies to review all conference policies and required approval by senior officials for any spending over $100,000. OMB prohibited spending more than $500,000 on a single conference.

Tuesday’s document is a request for interested vendors to describe the services they might offer under a meetings management program contract and doesn’t commit the government to purchasing any services. If GSA moves forward with the project, meetings management would become a special item number on GSA’s Schedule 599 for Travel Services Solutions.

A schedule is essentially a menu of services GSA has already vetted and negotiated that other agencies can purchase for a set price rather than negotiating themselves. Special item numbers are collections of related services offered within a schedule. 

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