September 20, 2011

U.S. Taxpayers Foot The Bill For Justice Department’s $16 Muffins!!! An Inspector General Report Shows “Extravagant and Wasteful” Costs For Food, Beverages & Event Planning! UGH! :/

The Washington Times
written by Jerry Seper
Tuesday September 20, 2011

The Justice Department spent more than $120 million in fiscal 2008 and 2009 to host law enforcement conferences across the country, many of which featured “extravagant and wasteful” costs for food, beverages and event planning, including spending $16 on each of 250 muffins served at an August 2009 legal conference in Washington, D.C., a report said Tuesday.

Acting Inspector General Cynthia Schnedar, in an audit report that examined taxpayer expenditures incurred by the Justice Department at 10 of 1,832 conferences held during fiscal 2008 and 2009, said investigators also found that another conference featured a lunch that cost $76 per person and coffee costing more than $1 per ounce. Other costly items cited in the report included a $32-per-person snack break consisting of Cracker Jacks, popcorn and candy bars, $7.32 Beef Wellington hors d’oeuvres, $10 cookies and $5 Swedish meatballs.

The numbers are included in a report that examined expenditures incurred by the Justice Department during fiscal 2008 and 2009 following a 2007 audit by the Inspector General's Office that also identified what it described at the time as “extravagant costs associated with food and beverages and event planning activities.” The new report said that while it found that the Justice Department had instituted conference cost guidelines since the 2007 report, individual components within the agency “are not taking all necessary steps to minimize conference-related costs and to eliminate wasteful spending.”

The report noted that the department hosted or participated in 1,832 conferences in fiscal 2008 and 2009, costing a total of $121 million. The new audit examined 10 conferences that occurred between October 2008 and September 2009 and cost over $4.4 million. It focused on the two major conference cost categories that the September 2007 report revealed as most potentially susceptible to wasteful spending – event planning services and food and beverages.

“Our audit found that two DOJ components, the Office of Justice Programs (OJP) and the Office on Violence Against Women (OVW), spent approximately $600,000 in grant funds to procure event planning services for five conferences without demonstrating that these firms offered the most cost effective logistical services,” Ms. Schnedar said. “The audit also found that neither OJP nor the OVW required event planners to track and report salary and benefit costs."

“As a result, the mandated DOJ conference cost reports submitted to Congress did not include over $500,000 of the $600,000 that it spent on event planning services for the five conferences we examined where event planners were used,” she said.

The audit also identified what it called “unallowable and unnecessary event planning costs,” including the hiring of a consultant as an event planner for one conference who lived in Anchorage, Alaska, to act as the liaison with the conference hotel located in Palm Springs, California. The audit questioned as “unnecessary” nearly $3,500 in Justice Department funds paid to the consultant to travel three times between Alaska and California, especially since the event had been held at the same venue three times previously. Also questioned as unnecessary in the audit were over $29,000 in travel, lodging and food and beverage costs for a face-to-face planning meeting held in Palm Springs in January and February 2008 that was attended by Justice department employees and event planning consultants.

In a response to the Inspector General’s report, Deputy Attorney General David W. Ogden sent a memo to all department heads saying that as the department works to accomplish its mission, “We must also make certain we do so with a focus on accountability and transparency to the American taxpayers.” He told the department heads to ensure that financial resources are utilized in the most advantageous and responsible manner.

“I want to emphasize the need to maximize our financial resources, ensure we are prudent in our spending, and avoid the fact or appearance of extravagant spending, especially during these challenging financial times,” he said. [Yeah, NOW AFTER they've been caught with their pants down. These shenanegans would still be going on if they hadn't been audited. Why wasn't Deputy Attorney General David W. Ogden being responsible and why didn't he care about the American taxpayers before?!?! (emphasis mine)]

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