SEPTEMBER 21, 2011
While President Obama pushes for tax hikes to finance yet another flawed government program, separate audits expose the enraging waste of public dollars at two of the nation’s largest federal agencies.The probes, released just weeks apart, illustrate how bloated government agencies go on spending sprees with American tax dollars, even as the nation suffers through a dire financial crisis and record-high unemployment. None of this serves as a deterrent when it comes to living it up on the public’s dime.At the Department of Justice (DOJ) more than $120 million went to host law enforcement conferences that featured “extravagant and wasteful” costs for food, beverages and event planning, according to the agency’s inspector general. This includes $16 muffins for breakfast, $76 lunches, $10 cookies and candy bars that cost more than $7 each. The agency also spent thousands on event planning “consultants” and their travel between venues.Considering the DOJ hosted nearly 2,000 conferences between fiscal years 2008 and 2009 that translates into $121 million. In a sampling of 10 conferences that took place in less than a year, investigators determined that the DOJ doled out more than $4.4 million. A big chunk of it went to “wasteful” event planning services, food and beverages, according to the report, which was made public this week.Days earlier a separate audit exposed a similar situation at the State Department, which spent hundreds of thousands of dollars from a special emergency fund for unrelated matters such as parties and a kitchen renovation at the agency’s Washington D.C. headquarters. The money is provided by Congress for “urgent needs” such as evacuating diplomats from dangerous posts or paying rewards for information on terrorist activities.During fiscal years 2008 and 2009 the State Department used approximately $34.3 million from the special account—known as K Fund—and the agency’s inspector general determined that $723,378 of it was not properly spent. Some of it was used for a holiday party hosted by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, to engrave holiday cards for senior-level officials and to buy linens for an annual retirement party. The kitchen renovation cost more than $320,000 and should have been paid for from another fund.State Department brass has essentially flipped the finger at its watchdog, dismissing most of its recommendations to ensure the money is used appropriately and justifying the expenses as “legally permissible.” The agency has also failed to provide mandatory quarterly reports to Congress, according to the audit.
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