GSA head out after lavish spending by agency

(CBS News) The General Services Administration is the government's landlord and procurement manager. It's supposed to set the standard  for government efficiency and cost-cutting -- something a scathing new report clearly shows the GSA didn't do.

The report has forced three top Washington officials out of their jobs, and four more have been suspended.

It amounts to a huge embarrassment for the administration.

The report is jaw-dropping. It details page after page of over-the-top spending by the GSA.

For instance, more than $100,000 just to plan a four-day Las Vegas conference for 300 people.

Twenty-four bikes for a team-building exercise cost the agency $75,000.

GSA head resigns after scathing IG report

One reception cost $31,000 -- more than $100 a person.

The entertainment at the conference included a mind reader who was paid several thousand dollars. There was a GSA employee dressed in a rented clown suit and, by some accounts, a comedian.

All-told, the conference cost $822,000.

Taxpayer watchdog groups are appalled.

"You'd think it's some birthday party for some spoiled 8 year old instead of a federal agency meeting," observed Steve Ellis, of Taxpayers for Common Sense.

President Obama isn't happy, either. His chief of staff said the president is outraged. He actually started a program -- with the vice president in charge -- to cut government waste. The president even asked agencies to review money spent on conferences.

"One of the commitments I made to the American people," Mr. Obama said in November, "was that we would do a better job here in Washington at rooting out wasteful spending," Mr. Obama has said.

Martha Johnson, the head of the GSA, was supposed to help the president keep that commitment.

At a conference in November, she said, "People are coming in with a lot of energy to figure out ways of saving money, saving resources, getting rid of any waste in the system."

Instead, Johnson has now stepped down, two others have been fired, and four others suspended, leaving the government with a mess to clean up.

"These are the sorts of things that resonate and stick with people, and it makes them mad and it should make them mad," said Ellis.

One person it's sure to stick  with -- Mitt Romney. You can expect to hear plenty about it on the campaign trail.

The GSA says it's reformed its accounting practices.

To see Bill Plante's report, click on the video in the player above.

  • Bill Plante

    Bill Plante is a CBS News Senior White House Correspondent

Comments