Years After GSA Las Vegas Conf. Scandal, Agencies Still Hold Lavish Events
A few years after the General Services Administration’s (GSA) scandalous Las Vegas conference fleeced American taxpayers out of hundreds of thousands of dollars, another federal agency is being exposed for covering up its lavish events totaling millions.
The Department of Labor (DOL) spent nearly $2 million on questionable extracurricular events then tried to cover it up, according to a federal audit made public recently. In fact, the agency failed to follow federal reporting guidelines for many of its pricey employee conferences, including more than a dozen that cost American taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars. The two more expensive ones cost $225,000 and $131,000 with the others running close to $100,000, according to the report issued by the DOL Inspector General.
After the GSA debacle Congress passed a measure to tighten the reins on this sort of outrageous spending for federal agency employee events, yet we see nothing has really changed. Heads publicly rolled when the GSA Inspector General published a scathing report exposing the lavish Las Vegas powwow, which featured luxury accommodations for staff and their loved ones, fine cuisine, wild parties and expensive gifts. Adding insult to injury, dozens of GSA workers were actually awarded cash bonuses for arranging the outlandish Sin City celebration.
The new guidelines are supposed to crack down on that sort of abuse, but the DOL case shows agencies are blowing off the rules. Under the 2013 congressional measure federal agencies are required to notify their inspector general with 15 business days of conferences costing more than $20,000 and file reports on those totaling upwards of $100,000. The six-figure events also must receive approval from a senior official. The DOL didn’t bother to do either. Here are some examples of the 2013 conferences and their price tag: Four “basic training” events for the agency’s wage and hour division totaling more than a million dollars, a basic compliance officer training for $173,182 and a “manager’s conference” that cost $161,226.
Keep in mind that any conference estimated to cost under $100,000 faces virtually no scrutiny and requires no management approval, so these agencies have quite a bit of leeway. Those events don’t even get mentioned, so the public will never know the true magnitude of the waste. Here are examples of some of the cheaper events mentioned in the inspector general report only because the watchdog conducted a broader probe into the matter since these usually remain under the radar. An Indian and Native American training seminar that cost $65,167, a “regional directors and managers” meeting for $62, 137 and a meeting to conduct a “national compensation survey” for $38,200.
“DOL is entrusted with public funds and it should strive to demonstrate that it complies with all federal guidance to reduce costs to the government,” the agency watchdog writes at the end of its lengthy report. Like all federal audits, “recommendations” are attached to this one, but that doesn’t mean anything will change. In fact, in many cases government agencies’ failure to correct wrongdoing gets documented year after year in audit after audit with no consequences, just a lot of wasted paper repeating the same violations.
The DOL has long been plagued by scandal and Judicial Watch has investigated the agency over the years. In fact, JW sued the DOL for records detailing the 2012 visit of Obama’s then Labor Secretary Hilda Solis to a Maryland training center for illegal aliens to guarantee their rights regardless of immigration status. JW has also reported extensively on the DOL’s outrageous waste of taxpayer dollars for programs such as promoting collective bargaining in Vietnam, African youth empowerment and a number of illegal immigrant rights initiatives. Just a few weeks ago the DOL honored a veteran senator who let his mistress drown in a car he recklessly drove into a pond, rented a brothel for an entire night in Chile and sought meetings with communists.