Far be it for them to spend less on themselves and give more to the troops.
Pentagon officials botched the numbers in a 2013 report on government employee conferences that year so badly that the defense watchdog determined Congress should not trust any part of the document for reference.
The Department of Defense inspector general reviewed eight conferences that together cost $2 million from the final quarter of 2013 and found mistakes in more than half of the events it reviewed.
In all, the Pentagon said it spent $20.1 million on 80 conferences in 2013. Actually, there may have been more than 80 conferences and the costs could well exceed $20.1 million because the DOD office collecting the data didn't double-check the accuracy of the numbers it was given.
Among the problems found were these:
• Travel costs — which consumed 74 percent of all conference spending — were based on estimates that couldn’t be verified for five of the eight events the IG reviewed.
• One defense office alone racked up nearly $1 million in travel expenses for just three conferences, but couldn’t name the individual employees that traveled to the events.
• Another defense office could provide a list of attendees that traveled to an event but not how much it paid to send them there.
• At least three conferences totaling $1.7 million never made it into the final report because spending data was submitted in spreadsheets via email for the first three quarters of 2013. The Pentagon didn’t launch a digital tool that allowed its office to submit their conference expenses online until the fourth quarter.
• Besides failing to verify the accuracy of reported conference spending, Pentagon officials did not consistently check whether reported conference expenses followed the agency’s guidelines.
• The IG discovered seven events totaling $1.4 million in the 2013 report that didn’t fit DOD's definition of a conference, including two events costing $369,000 that were actually military exercises, not conferences.
• Defense officials excluded another $628,000 from the agency’s annual report because they “overlooked an email response” from the Pentagon office reporting it.
A 2013 law compels federal agencies to report all conferences that cost $100,000 or more to their inspectors general. Defense officials implemented another set of agency rules that allowed some types of events, such as operational exercises or international cooperation engagements, to be exempted from conference reporting requirements.
Some of the inconsistencies in the conference report stemmed from the Pentagon’s tendency to check whether such exemptions applied to reported events on a “case-by-case basis,” the IG said.
What's more, Pentagon offices "were not required to report actual expenses or submit documentation of actual conference costs” under agency rules, according to the report.
The report highlights a problem that is common throughout the federal government in departments and agencies that struggle to get a handle on how much officials are spending on conferences.
In response to findings that the Department of Health and Human Services failed to report $1.4 million it spent on conferences in 2012, a top agency official said it cost more than it was worth to make sure conference spending reports are accurate.
The General Service Administration drew intense public scrutiny after a 2012 IG report revealed lavish spending on a Las Vegas event.
Go here to read the full Department of Defense IG report.
Courtesy of Washingtonexamner