- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Chateau on the Lake in Branson, Mo., bills itself as a resort getaway with poolside attendants, a luxury spa and mountaintop tennis courts overlooking the clear waters of Table Rock Lake.

For one General Services Administration (GSA) official, the luxury apparently proved such a delight that the official stayed at the hotel, but failed to attend any of the government training sessions that were the purpose of the 2009 trip.

In the end, taxpayers picked up the bill.

The episode, gleaned from documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, is one of a handful of little-noticed internal investigations involving suspected government travel fraud at the GSA that occurred before the agency was recently hauled before Congress over a lavish Las Vegas conference featuring in-room parties, a mind reader, fancy artisan cheeses and a cash bar.

The earlier episode didn’t reach that level of extravagance, but it did prove serious enough for the GSA’s watchdog agency to launch a full investigation for more than a year into a travel-fraud allegation involving an official in the customer accounts and research office of the GSA’s Federal Acquisition Service in Kansas City.

The investigation widened to include a review of companies with whom the GSA official was affiliated and the official’s relationship with “certain individuals and contractors,” records show.

Documents detailing the probe were provided to The Washington Times by the GSA’s Office of Inspector General in response to an open-records request, though officials redacted the names of the officials involved, citing privacy and other reasons.

It wasn’t the only travel-fraud case investigated by the GSA’s inspector general in recent years.

In 2010, Daniel Voll, a former deputy commissioner in the GSA’s public buildings service, was fined, sentenced to three months imprisonment and put on probation for a year after pleading guilty to theft charges stemming from more than $60,000 in bogus charges to his government-issued credit card.

Unauthorized charges

A report of investigation by the GSA’s inspector general noted that Voll’s supervisor, Jeffrey Neely, provided information showing that an internal audit of Voll’s travel and purchase card accounts included numerous unauthorized charges, including multiple hotel stays in the San Francisco area.

Now, it’s Mr. Neely who is hard-pressed to explain his own purchasing decisions.

He pleaded his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination during a recent appearance before Congress when asked about his role in organizing the lavish Las Vegas conference in 2010.

In an email, which was read aloud by Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, Maryland Democrat, at a House oversight hearing last month, Mr. Neely told friends, “… we’ll get guys a room near us, and we’ll pick up the room tab. Could be a blast.”

Asked whether he was prepared to answer questions about his role in organizing the conference, Mr. Neely declined, saying, “I respectfully decline to answer any questions here today based upon my Fifth Amendment constitutional privilege.”

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