WASHINGTON – Maine Sen. Susan Collins on Wednesday denounced what she called “outrageous” wasteful spending at the General Services Administration, a federal agency that is supposed to make government more efficient.

Collins and other lawmakers on Capitol Hill have been investigating the GSA since April, when the inspector general released a report describing a lavish conference in Las Vegas in 2010 for GSA employees and managers that cost the government more than $800,000.

Since then, lawmakers also have criticized awards and bonuses to agency employees, wasteful travel and many instances when the GSA – which is in charge of procurement for the federal government – didn’t even follow its own policies.

On Wednesday, the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs held a hearing to ask GSA officials what has changed at the agency, which also manages federal buildings and other properties.

Collins, who with Sen. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut has led the investigation into the GSA, said her committee has since learned of more disturbing expenditures. Those included five- to six-day trips to Hawaii for one-hour ribbon-cuttings, $30,000 for drumsticks used in a team-building exercise and awards of more than $50,000 to employees.

“This is outrageous and particularly so in the midst of what is supposed to be a freeze on pay in the federal government a bad economy and high unemployment,” said Collins, the ranking Republican member on the committee.

Collins credited GSA acting Administrator Daniel M. Tangherlini, who took over in April after Administrator Martha Johnson resigned amid the scandal, for conducting a thorough review of spending. But she added: “The review must result in lasting, sustainable reforms. Not one more dollar at this agency can afford to be wasted.”

Nearly a dozen managers responsible for organizing the Las Vegas conference have been fired. Others have been suspended or required to reimburse the department.

Tangherlini told senators Wednesday that he also has taken other steps, including having Washington GSA officials review all conferences, scaling back employee travel, reducing awards to senior administrators by 85 percent and instituting a targeted hiring freeze.

He called what happened at the Las Vegas conference “a complete waste of taxpayer money,” adding that such practices have no place in any federal agency but are “particularly at odds” with the GSA’s mission.

Washington Bureau Chief Kevin Miller can be contacted at 317-6256 or at:

[email protected]