NATION

GSA inquiry widening

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Neely asserted his right to remain silent at one House hearing and failed to appear at a second. Miller has referred his case to the Justice Department for a criminal investigation and said he made other criminal referrals. Boxer, D-Calif., said the committee's goal is "to make sure we don't have a repeat of this nightmare."

She said Miller and Tangherlini needed to keep "shaking this tree and letting these bad apples fall. This (Western) region went wild on you. They went rogue."

Tangherlini said he's moving to remove some of the autonomy by the 11 GSA regions that permitted the Western regions to spend freely without getting caught.

The inspector general only learned of the misconduct after a GSA official in Washington was told about it and asked him to investigate.

Tangherlini added the agency's chief financial officer will now have full access to spending in all the regions and he would end the blurred lines that made it unclear who regional officials reported to.

Miller said the ultimate deterrent to misconduct is criminal prosecution. He said, "We are doing all we can to identify those committing fraud and crimes and referring them to the Department of Justice for prosecution."

In a separate Senate Appropriations Committee hearing, Miller said he was investigating whether there were kickbacks paid to vendors for the Las Vegas conference and those by other regions.

He said the regions tried to outdo each other in arranging conferences, and added that Neely wanted the Western Regions Conference in 2010 to be "over the top" in extravagance.

Miller said GSA officials would negotiate upgrades for themselves with the resorts where the conferences were held. For instance, at the Las Vegas conference, the resort upgraded some officials to $1,100 two-story loft suites for the federal allocation of $93 per night.

The hotel did so, Miller said, in return for the extensive catering that GSA ordered at the facility. "That is under investigation," Miller said. "As we talked about before, we have a criminal referral" asking the Justice Department to bring an indictment.

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