Many government agencies have received flack over the past few years for what the public deems excessive government conference spending. The public might roll their eyes at the cost of items that celebrities require for events, but most people tend to think – their money; their prerogative. However, it turns out that taxpayers do not like their money being used for a $4 Swedish meatball.
It is true that the private sector can benefit from government spending, but at what cost to the taxpayer? And when taxpayer money is involved, the concern is always what value is the taxpayer getting in return for their dollar. It is one thing for government personnel to attend or host a conference. However, lavish “team building” events with ridiculously priced food and entertainment can hardly be justified as a benefit to the taxpayer, let alone the government personnel in attendance.
At some point, some agencies, such as DOJ, GSA, and most recently, IRS, have crossed a line with regards to extreme conference spending. Individuals within these organizations have seemingly forgotten the role of public service and the goal and mission of the organization. These expenditures reek of waste even if the government was operating with a surplus. However, it hurts even more since the federal government is operating on continuing resolutions and sequestration, which has put a decided strain on the purse strings for many government agencies. It is hard enough for military and federal civilian employees to be personally feeling the spending cuts, but it becomes even more challenging to read about government officials and agencies taking on a celebrity status with taxpayer money.
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The unfortunate outcome of this is that the ones who bend or break the rules always hurt the good, rule-following employees. Conferences can be a value-add for all parties involved. Because of the budget cuts and scrutiny following the fallout from others’ poor conference spending choices, many valuable conferences have been deemed unallowable expenses. Technically, team building can happen without the use of video parodies that cost fifty thousand dollars. Better internal communications can work wonders within an organization. So, it can be argued that not all conferences have a high return on investment; however, many conferences do provide valuable knowledge and important organizational networking. Some conferences provide the perfect environment for multiple agencies to work together and find inter-operable solutions, saving taxpayer money and reducing waste.
The American dream is not based on the idea of government officials acting like entitled royalty at the expense of the people. America is a country that promotes the idea that a common man or woman can work hard and earn a place in society. It is really hard to understand how someone working with taxpayer money decided a clown, a mind reader, and a bicycle-building workshop was a worthy expenditure and necessary for the organizational mission. Hopefully, despite the high expenditures for muffins or meatballs, these high-priced events proved useful to those in attendance.