How $16 Muffins Caused The White House To Crack Down On Conference Spending

The Justice Department’s purchase of muffins at $16 a pop has resulted in the White House ordering all agencies and departments to review conference spending.First there was the memo from Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole, who issued a statement indicating that Attorney General Eric Holder “will not tolerate wasteful or excessive spending of any kind.” He said that overall conference spending has been reduced in the first six months of fiscal year 2011.

“We recognize that ongoing monitoring is necessary to ensure that components fully comply with department policies, and we will redouble our efforts in overseeing conference requests,” Cole said. “Failure to comply with the Department’s policies is not acceptable.”

Later in the day, the White House’s Office of Management and Budget issued a memo instructing all agencies to “conduct a thorough review of the policies and controls associated with conference-related activities and expenses.” Until then, approval of conference-related activities and expenses have to be cleared by high-ranking officials, the memo stated.

“It is important to note that many of the instances described in the report date back to 2004. And beginning in 2009, the Department of Justice under Attorney General Holder’s leadership, took proactive steps to implement tighter internal controls to reduce just these sorts of activities,” OMB Director Jacob J. Lew wrote. “Yet, the IG report provides a reminder of how important it is that agencies undertake all due diligence to
protect taxpayer resources from unnecessary expenditures.”