The Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) spent millions on conferences during the Obama administration, according to a report by Judicial Watch. A review of DHS spending illustrates the need for federal agencies to report conference spending, the report says.
Citing a federal audit released this month by the agency’s Inspector General, Judicial Watch says DHS held 911 conferences totaling $21.8 million, over a “recent two-year period.”
In fiscal year 2014 DHS spent $11.4 million on 433 conferences and $10.4 million on 478 conferences in 2015. At the time, federal agencies were required to report all conferences that cost more than $100,000 each, but DHS kept two out of every three that cost north of $100,000 secret. The agency watchdog doesn’t provide the exact number, but reveals in its report that the total of unreported conferences was a whopping $3.5 million for the two years examined by investigators. In fiscal year 2014 the unreported conferences totaled $862,881 and in fiscal year 2015 they came to $2,822,561.
DHS committed other violations as well, according to the audit report.
“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,” the report says. “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.”
The report finds that due to a lack of documentation, it is unknown if conference spending was appropriate, or of benefit to the Government and taxpayers.
Obama era rules to “crack down on the waste” were ineffective, if the audit is any indication, as the incidents occurred during the previous administration’s watch. In June, the Trump administration removed a rule that made federal agencies report conference spending. But Judicial Watch worries that an agency as large as the DHS will abuse the system without proper oversight, especially considering they spent “an eye-popping $20.3 million in just one year to host 1,883 conferences,” all while stricter spending rules were in place.
The report notes that other government conferences, including the International Oil Spill Conference in Savannah, Georgia, Women in Federal Law Enforcement (WIFLE) in Washington D.C., and Customs and Border Patrol conferences in Washington D.C. and Ft. Worth Texas, spent thousands to host their events.
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