$16 muffins lead to review of meeting expenses

Wed Sep 21, 2011 8:55pm EDT
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By JoAnne Allen

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama on Wednesday ordered federal agencies to review expenses for conferences after an embarrassing report revealed the Justice Department served $16 muffins at a 2009 gathering.

Office of Management and Budget chief Jack Lew directed agency heads to conduct a thorough review of how taxpayer dollars are being spent on conferences.

Under the directive, a deputy secretary or other senior agency official will have to approve conference-related expenses while the review is underway.

A report by the Justice Department's Office of Inspector General on Tuesday said the agency spent $121 million on conferences over two years, exceeding its own spending limits.

Some of the spending appeared to be "extravagant and wasteful," the audit said.

"We found the Department spent $16 on each of the 250 muffins served at an August 2009 legal conference in Washington," the report said.

The audit focused only on 10 conferences held during the 2008 and 2009 fiscal years.

Other examples of waste reported were snacks at $32 per person, $10 brownies, $8.00 coffee, and nearly $600,000 for event planning services for five conferences.   Continued...