Despite the Obama administration’s efforts to rein in federal spending on conferences and travel, some agencies are still splurging millions on events at taxpayer expense – and failing to report what they’ve actually spent. .
A new report from the Department of Labor’s Inspector General says the agency failed to properly document some of its most expensive conferences in 2013, including about $2 million worth of events.
In 2011 the administration and lawmakers on Capitol Hill tried to crack down on agency conference spending. That effort came after several audits revealed the IRS and the General Services Administration were spending millions a year on lavish events; one GSA employee conference was even held at a luxury hotel on the Las Vegas strip.
Lawmakers condemned the agencies for frivolous spending at taxpayer expense and wrote legislation requiring all departments to report travel and event expenses to their IGs. Separately, a presidential executive order signed in 2011 required agencies to post travel and conference spending on their websites.
“By including only certain categories, DOL could potentially manipulate its calculated cost reductions,” the auditors said. The IG said the department should set up a better process to comply with federal guidelines.
“The Department is strongly committed to ensuring that all requirements imposed by [the Office of Management and Budget] and Congress are met,” the department’s chief financial officer said in its response to the IG.
The Labor Department is not the only federal agency to be called out for non-compliance with the new regulations. The Defense Department’s IG released a report earlier this year revealing inconsistencies and errors in the Pentagon’s report on conference expenses for 2013.
That year, DOD reported spending about $20 million on as many as 80 group conferences. However, after reviewing expense samples, auditors concluded the number of conferences as well as the cost had been understated. In both cases, auditors blamed the departments for lax oversight – which Labor and DOD said they would improve.
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