Dan Tangherlini is trying to get to the bottom of what exactly happened during an investigation of the General Services Administration’s SmartPay conference.
Federal News Radio first reported what some would say are aggressive tactics used by the agency’s inspector general during a review of GSA’s spending at the 2012 SmartPay conference in Nashville last month. An IG auditor knocked on the door of the GSA official in charge, David Shea, after 11 p.m. and allegedly read him his Miranda rights. There are two different versions of what happened after the knock on the door.
Tangherlini, the acting administrator of GSA, said he sought out more information about the tactics used by the IG office at the early August conference.
“I’ve talked to both the IG and I’ve talked to David Shea about the issue that was raised. In both cases, you heard the IG talk [Wednesday] at the hearing where he said he wouldn’t comment on managerial decisions and he wouldn’t second guess how I do my job. I’m going to have the same level of respect for him,” Tangherlini said in an interview with Federal News Radio. “In talking to David Shea about what happened and the outcome, the fact is a very high-level investigation was done of the conference and what they found was none of the abuses, absolutely none of them, were proven to be true. In many ways, he stood a very difficult test, and like many GSA employees do every day, they have a high level of oversight and expectation and they meet it.”
Additionally, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee also asked GSA IG Brian Miller about the approach his investigator used during the analysis during a pre-hearing call last week.
Tangherlini and Miller testified Wednesday about the steps GSA is taking to reform its culture and organization in the wake of the Western Regions Conference scandal that came to light last April.
Tangherlini offered no details on his conversation with Miller or Shea and skirted the question about the impact on the morale of a GSA employee being put into a situation of having a law enforcement officer bang on his door late at night.
“As federal employees, we always will have a higher bar of oversight,” Tangherlini said. “I think, actually, if you look at the actions when I got there on day one, I’ve been working very closely in partnership with the IG, Brian Miller and his team, to make clear there should be no daylight between us and the IG in trying to get to the same end and the same goal, and that is delivering the best and highest quality of services at the most efficient price. We will find our way through that. We have to recognize, we have to step way back and say, ‘We have a shared goal here – protecting taxpayer resources and making sure we deliver high quality services.’ We will do what we can to see that through.”
Tangherlini offered more details on the organizational changes coming from his top-to-bottom review.
GSA will consolidate the three chief information officer offices — headquarters, Public Buildings Service and the Federal Acquisition Service — into one led by Casey Coleman, the headquarters CIO.
“I’m going to ask the CIO organization themselves to give me some ideas for how they think they could structure themselves to be more effective,” he said. “I really want to make sure we leverage the full scale of those organizational resources and solve the agencywide problems. Even in the PBS there is an issue of cohesiveness within the PBS CIO structure. The fact we have 11 different building management systems rather than one integrated system — that means we are spending 11 times as much as we need to on buying the system. We are spending more money than we need to on maintaining the system and we don’t have the kind of consistency we need to deliver a higher quality program. That’s really what the benefit of IT is and we haven’t fully realized it.”
He said the reforms will give Coleman the authority and the accountability to deliver IT results.
The other major change is consolidating human resources functions in the Chief People Office (CPO).
Tangherlini said the HR functions were more disparate than the CIO’s organization.
“The issue was not only did we have people who worked for our CPO out in the field, we also had parallel or shadow CPO functions in the field, and in some cases several layers of it,” he said. “What we are saying is, we need to focus the human capital activity on not just processing the paperwork, which we haven’t been doing as efficiently and as well as we can and certainly not as transparently as we should have. What we want to do is take that group of folks, streamline those basic processes and really turn them loose on the more complicated processes of human capital planning and really working on developing training plans for employees, the real meat and interesting stuff in the human capital field.”
The third major change Tangherlini announced is the reduction of fees GSA charges for using its schedules or providing acquisition services.
Tangherlini said GSA will remove the 1.25 percent surcharge fee on the Strategic Sourcing contracts, taking it down to 0.75 percent. He said Mary Davie, the acting FAS Commissioner, will lead a working group to determine how to reduce the other fees.
“She’s supposed to come back to me in a couple of weeks with a plan and a strategy,” Tangherlini said. “From there, I’ll have a better sense of the timeline. What we are really trying to do is send a signal today both to our vendors and agency community that we get it, we hear them and we are committed to making changes.”
He added vendors likely will not be included in the working group, but their input will be solicited at the proper time.
Francis Rose is the host of In Depth, which airs weekdays from 4-7 p.m. on 1500 AM in the Washington, DC metro area and online everywhere. Francis has covered all three branches of the federal government as a broadcast journalist since 1998. He joined Federal News Radio in 2006 as the producer and news anchor of the station’s morning drive program, the Federal Drive. He launched In Depth in 2008 as a daily show focused on connecting federal executives to the information they need to do their jobs better.