DHS Spent Millions on Conferences It Didn’t Report
July 14, 2017
DHS OIG HIGHLIGHTS
Audit of Department of Homeland Security’s
Fiscal Years 2014 and 2015 Conference Spending
July 10, 2017
What We Found
DHS did not comply with the reporting of annual conferences as required by Federal regulations. The Department failed to report 6 conferences in FY 2014 and 14 conferences in FY 2015 that were greater than $100,000 in its Annual Report to the Office of Inspector General and on the public website as required by Federal regulations. The total dollar value of these unreported conferences was $862,881 and $2,822,561 for FYs 2014 and 2015, respectively.
The Department also did not always report all hosted conferences greater than $20,000 to OIG within 15 days after the end of the conference. In addition, the Department did not always enter actual conference cost data into the Conference Approval Tool timely or accurately, and in some instances DHS did not have appropriate documentation to support expenses. Accurate reporting of conference costs is important to ensure transparency.
Although DHS did not comply with reporting requirements, its conference expenses for FYs 2014 and 2015 appeared appropriate, reasonable, and necessary. (seriously)
The Homeland Security Department failed to report nearly two dozen conferences in 2014 and 2015 with a cumulative price tag of more than $3.5 million, according to a new report, skirting federal requirements.
The audit comes just weeks after the Office of Management and Budget said it would no longer enforce the Obama-era conference spending reporting requirements. The Trump administration defended that decision by claiming agencies had instituted tighter internal controls on their conference spending. OMB Director Mick Mulvaney explained the conference reporting was inefficient and taking time away from employees who could be conducting more mission-critical work.
The auditors did not identify any specific instances of inappropriate or unreasonable expenses—such as the infamous $820,000 Las Vegas GSA conference with lavish meals, gifts for attendees and fancy hotel rooms—but cited DHS for a lack of candor.
“Accurate reporting of conference costs is important to ensure transparency,” the IG said.
The IG made five recommendations to compel the DHS chief financial officer to institute tighter controls of conference reporting and to update department policies to clarify responsibilities. The auditors noted that DHS management has already taken appropriate measures to address its suggestions.
Read article HERE.
Washington Post 2006: Sen. Tom Coburn(R-Okla.) said the Pentagon sent 36,000 military and civil service employees to 6,600 conferences worldwide last year at an average cost of $2,200 per person. “Of interest is that of those 6,600 conferences, 663 were held in Florida in the middle of the winter; 224 were held in Las Vegas, and 98 in Hawaii,” he said. Half the conferences, Coburn contended, could have been conducted through digital videoconferencing and saved money.
HHS FY 2016 Report on Conference Spending by HHS Staff Divisions shows their group overall spent $830,194 for 3308 at an expense of $277 per attendee. DHS FY 2016 Report on Conference Spending by HHS Staff Divisions shows their group overall spent $8.1 million (remember they “forgot” to include some). Those are only two divisions out of the executive branch spending just for conferences.
S.1347 – Conference Accountability Act of 2014 introduced July 23, 2013 by Senator Coburn and co-sponsored by McCain, Chiesa, Enzi, and Ayotte got no further than introduction before it was ignored or shelved until October 2014 when it was placed on the agenda by the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. At that point it appears to have faded away. It’s companion report S. Rept. 113-268 highlighted reasons why the bill was needed yet nothing ever came of this bill:
The past decade has witnessed several well documented cases of excessive and wasteful spending at government conferences across the federal government, including the Department of Justice,\1\ the Department of Veterans Affairs\2\ and the Internal Revenue Service.\3\ The most egregious example of wasteful conference spending was the Western Regions Conference held by the General Services Administration (``GSA'') in 2010. In that instance, GSA spent nearly $900,000 on an excessive and wasteful conference in Las Vegas, including more than $100,000 in planning costs, $75,000 for a bicycle building exercise, and nearly $150,000 on food.
OMB Issued “Guidance on Government Spending for Travel and Conferences Document Finds Funds Related to Standards Activities Can Constitute Approved Expenses” Jun 17, 2013 and other times after that but these were simply ignored or shelved.
Even as the government was telling citizens “we have to tighten belts and added more taxes to overburdened workers” THEY were living it up while at overseas, Las Vegas, resorts, and other places attending conferences gleefully spending huge amounts of tax dollars. Hardly fair when most Americans rarely take the same kind of vacations and certainly none get paid to do so. While businesses are cutting back and using telecommunications rather than splurging, the bureaucrats are going about with their heads in the sand. Nero did this as have others down through the ages and they eventually paid the price.
This is what we are dealing with–a bloated, overspending, out-of-control government who thinks that citizens should be funding without question everything they choose to spend money on. The Pentagon can allow for transgender surgeries, grants are handed out helter skelter without accountability or oversight, Planned Parenthood can get tax dollars while killing fetuses, departments can stockpile weapons and ammunition who have no need for those things, Soros funded groups receiving our tax dollars in order to destroy our country, construction gets huge overruns in costs and much of it superfluous, our businesses have had to either move out of country or close their doors, our people overseas are under threat of attack and left to fend for themselves, and the list goes on and on.
It isn’t just one of the parties responsible but certainly the Democrats have led the way along with their uniparty Republican buddies. It is time for a reckoning.