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Agency disregarded gift limits, panel says

WASHINGTON - The General Services Administration developed an employee awards program that spent more than $438,000 over three years, far exceeding the agency’s per-gift limit of $99, congressional investigators reported Friday.

Investigators for the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee said the “Hats Off Program’’ initially gave out items of nominal value. Over time, the awards became iPods, digital cameras, GPS devices, and other electronics. The spending was for the 2007 through 2010 budget years.

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The GSA, the real estate agency for federal buildings, said in a statement that the program has ended. “Operations have been suspended pending a continuing top down review of all spending,’’ the statement said.

The agency has been under fire from Congress after its inspector general reported this week that GSA spent $820,000 for a Las Vegas conference. The head of the agency resigned, two deputies were fired, and employees were suspended. The Transportation panel and the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee are starting investigations of the agency’s wasteful spending.

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