Hard Times: DOJ Cuts Conference Spending By $14 Mil
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How considerate of the Justice Department to finally cut back on the extravagant work conferences that stick it to U.S. taxpayers with exorbitant tabs for overpriced food, beverages and fancy party planners.Heads turned a few weeks ago when a Department of Justice (DOJ) Inspector General probe revealed that the bloated agency blew more than $120 million to host law enforcement conferences that featured “extravagant and wasteful” costs for food, beverages and event planning. The details were astounding.Examples listed in the inspector general’s report include $16 muffins for breakfast, $76 lunches, $10 cookies and candy bars that cost more than $7 each. The agency also wasted 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. For 10 government conferences paid entirely with taxpayer dollars! A big chunk of it went to “wasteful” event planning services, food and beverages, according to the agency’s inspector general.This week Attorney General Eric Holder announced that, as part of the agency’s cost-cutting measures the DOJ will graciously limit conference spending to only those that may be “essential.” He also took the opportunity to pat himself on the back for already yielding “significant reductions in conference spending” during the first three quarters of fiscal year 2011. That means conference spending is down $14 million over the same period last year, according to Holder.“The Department of Justice is seeking ways to do more with less while we maintain our commitment to our critical law enforcement mission and our most important public safety priorities,” Holder said after announcing a series of other cost-cutting measures at the DOJ. He said the cost-saving will help the agency utilize its “limited resources in the most effective way possible.”Other measures that will save the agency some cash include streamlining operations, consolidating or reducing office space, a temporary hiring freeze and limiting travel and training. These brilliant ideas were discovered by the Attorney General’s Advisory Council for Savings and Efficiencies, which Holder credits with saving taxpayers $51 million. Created in 2010, the special council provides a framework to identify and implement practices for saving taxpayer money, realizing efficiencies and monitoring savings progress.