President charges Vice President with slashing extravagant food expenditures in Agencies...
President Obama has no appetite for taxpayers paying $8 dollars for individual cups of coffee and $16 for muffins. Those are among the "wasteful" and "extravagant" food expenditures reported on Tuesday in an audit from the Office of the Inspector General, which tracked food items the Department of Justice purchased for employee training conferences. Vice President Joe Biden today responded to the audit, and said President Obama has called for Agency heads to stop dropping taxpayer cash on over-priced foodie delights.
"These reports are troubling and reinforce why the President and I launched the Campaign to Cut Waste, a government-wide initiative to reduce spending by making government more effective and more efficient," Biden said in a statement issued by the White House.
Biden said that President Obama has directed Office of Management and Budget Director Jack Lew to direct all Agency heads to conduct "a thorough review of how they are spending taxpayer dollars on conferences." Read Lew's memo here.
There will also be an interim monitoring system, Biden said, and he pledged to follow up in December, too.
"As this review is underway, all conference-related activities and expenses will have to be signed off on by the Deputy Secretary or an equivalent chief operating officer of each agency," Biden said. "That way, those at the very top will have to account for these expenses."
The IG audit tracked ten conferences held by Justice as far back as 2004, and declared that some conferences "featured costly meals, refreshments, and themed breaks that we believe were indicative of wasteful or extravagant spending." Of note were $32/per person snacks of popcorn and candy bars, and beef Wellington appetizers priced at over $7. "One conference had a luncheon for 120 attendees that cost $53 per person, and another conference had a $60,000 reception that included platters of Swedish meatballs at a cost of nearly $5 per meatball," the audit noted. Justice spent $121 million on conferences in 2008 and 2009, and consistently failed to follow federal guidelines to keep food and beverage costs at reasonable rates for government-sponsored conferences.
In December, when the Agency heads are gathered at his next Campaign to Cut Waste Cabinet Meeting, Biden said he will "ask each and every one of them what they are doing to get on top of conference-related expenses and cut waste in this area and in other parts of their operations."
Biden last met with Agency heads last week, he said. The President and Biden unveiled the Campaign to Cut Waste in June.
Apparently the excessive taxpayer funds the government has shelled out for food only insults middle-class families, rather than the families of the poor and the rich, because that's who the Vice President referenced as he ended his statement.
"Every day, middle-class families are making tough choices to make ends meet," Biden said. "It is our responsibility to make sure that their taxpayer dollars are not wasted and instead are used to provide the services that Americans rely on and make our economy stronger and our Nation more secure."
*Photo by Pete Souza/White House