A quarter million dollars in modern Washington parlance is chump change. With the National Debt now achieving Everest-like proportions, even a billion dollars no longer impresses.
Nevertheless a new report says conference spending by four federal agencies has dropped $219 million since the IRS and the General Services Administration hosted embarrassing blowouts in Las Vegas in 2010.
Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., began to look into irregularities in protocol and federal decision-making regarding conference locations and spending in 2009. At that time, department and agency conference planners contracted with little regard for budgetary considerations, Mica’s office said. The congressman himself notes:
As a result, taxpayers were forced to pay for outrageous federal junkets. Some of these conferences included high-priced food and entertainment as well as promotional items and improperly accepted gifts.
Unfortunately, wasteful spending on federal conferences is not unique to a specific agency.
The report, issued Friday, found that congressional and Inspector General oversight has led to the implementation of tighter controls over conference spending and the elimination of frivolous and gratuitous expenditures.
As a result, taxpayers have saved hundreds of millions of dollars at the IRS, GSA, the Veterans Administration and the Department of Defense since fiscal year 2010, the report said.
Based on estimated savings from these four agencies over past years, government-wide savings from reductions in conference spending could reach as high as half-a-billion dollars annually, Mica’s office estimated.