Friday, April 6, 2012

GSA Scandal Hurts the Hospitality Industry

As public relations disasters go, AIG's was truly epic and this story of General Services Administration's (GSA's) abuse rivals it.  Clowns, mind readers, red-carpet events, lavish parties and expensive team building activities have turned into a huge scandal for employees of the GSA this week.  After the release of an investigative report on April 2, 2012, conducted by the Office of Inspector General revealed that an estimated $800,000 was spent on a 2010 training conference in Las Vegas, several top officials were forced to step down from their positions.

The report describes the costs of the conference as “excessive, wasteful, and…impermissible.”  Included in these outrageous costs was $130,000 for 8 pre-planning trips to Las Vegas including 5-31 GSA employees for each trip.  Another $146,000 was spent on catered food that included semi-private parties in individual hotel rooms and $75,000 was spent on a bicycle building training exercise.  Over $6,000 was spent on commemorative “Recovery Act” coins that were presented in velvet boxes to all attendees.  Taxpayers, lawmakers, and even the President are outraged by the GSA’s excessive spending on their conference.

In this era where the public debt is spiraling out of control and many American families are struggling to put a decent meal on the table, a scandal of squandered dollars hurts everyone involved- the government employees, the taxpayers, the institution and the hospitality industry in general. There is no doubt that the GSA representatives and the third party meeting planning company they hired to plan this meeting should have known better.
Amid the torrent of bad press this is just one other story of bad judgment and poor ethics. GSA abused its power and acted irresponsibly; however, this is not representative of the rest of the industry. Most are diligent about saving money, managing perception, and ensuring overall compliant meetings.

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