BUFFALO, N.Y. -- In 2011 taxpayers footed the bill for big bonuses for government workers, some of whom are located here in Buffalo.
The bonuses are the latest wrinkle in a Congressional investigation into a spending binge at a federal agency known as GSA, or General Services Administration. The agency helps the feds manage properties and, ironically, save money.
In fact, the GSA managed the construction of the new Buffalo Federal Courthouse. This spring, we learned that the GSA was spending your tax dollars on fun-filled conferences near Vegas, rooms at swanky hotels., and lavish parties.
2 On Your Side also has learned that this spending binge also included $30 million dollars worth of unreported bonuses for workers. The $30 million came from your tax dollars.
WEB EXTRA: Click here to search the database of GSA worker salaries and bonuses.
For example, one Buffalo worker received a bonus of $6,000 in 2011, bringing his annual earnings to $110,000 last year. Another received a $5,700 bonus, bringing his overall pay to $107,000. In fact, in 2011, seven of the 12 local GSA workers took home more than $80,000, including bonuses. Even the lowest paid worker made more than 50,000. He got a $1,600 bonus.
Congress is now investigating the GSA executives who allegedly approved the spending.
"I was outraged," said Rep. Jeff Denham (R-California) said of the spending in April. "Back in my district, we've got double-digit unemployment. We're twice the national average. People are hitting potholes because our roads are falling apart and people are just frustrated, and to see this type of outrageous spending, and then bragging about it, I think has people outraged."
Representative Denham also wants to know why the bonuses were paid in the first place.
A GSA spokesperson told 2 On Your Side that the agency's new administrator, appointed to reform the agency, is ". . . reviewing all bonuses and the entire performance award system as part of his comprehensive, top to bottom review of all agency operations. This review has already uncovered clear deficiencies in the area of performance awards. In response, (he) has cut executive bonuses and instituted a hiring freeze across the agency."
The GSA Spokesperson, who insisted the organization has now added significant oversight under its new leadership, also provided the following information:
Regarding the $30 million dollars worth of unreported bonuses:
"The data that was provided to Asbury Park Press and WUSA by the Office Personnel Management was only a subset of GSA's data. We report our entire payroll to the Office of Personnel Management. As soon as WUSA requested information from GSA about our entire salary and bonus information for 2011, we provided it to them. We will continue to be transparent and provide all information requests to Congress, the Office of Inspector General and the public."
Conferences and lavish spending:
"The new head of the agency Dan Tangherlini has instituted several stringent new policies on spending to put an end to misuse of taxpayer dollars. Tangherlini has also cut executive bonuses and instituted a hiring freeze across the agency. He has consolidated oversight of conference and travel expenses. In addition, he's cancelled 37 conferences, saving millions in taxpayer dollars, and directed a review of each and every planned future conference and related travel to ensure they are justified. Further reforms are forthcoming as part of our rigorous top-to-bottom review."