The Treasury Department has yet to provide Congress with a full list of employee conferences and their costs, despite repeated requests from Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla.
Treasury officials say they're being delayed because of multiple requests from different congressional committees, admitting “confusion,” but Coburn isn’t buying it.
“This ‘dog ate my homework’ response does not excuse the department from its responsibility to respond fully to all reasonable requests from Congress,” Coburn wrote to Treasury Tuesday. “In fact, a response such as this raises questions about whether the department takes any congressional inquiries [as] seriously as it should.”
Coburn’s latest letter is his third request for Treasury to provide information about conferences sponsored not only by Treasury, but also the 11 bureaus it oversees, including the Internal Revenue Service, the U.S. Mint and the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network.
Earlier this month, Coburn wrote to Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew asking why the department told him a year ago that the Treasury had spent less than $500,000 on conferences over seven years when an audit revealed that the IRS alone had spent $50 million on such events between 2010 and 2012 alone.
Treasury officials, in their latest letter to Coburn, are not exactly promising to turn over all the information on conferences.
Instead, Alastair Fitzpayne, the assistant secretary for legislative affairs who wrote to Coburn, said he would “be happy to forward” Coburn’s request to the new acting IRS commissioner, Daniel Werfel.
In the letter, Fitzpayne said the initial confusion stemmed from a simultaneous request from House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif.
“Treasury did not did not include any IRS data in its submission to Chairman Issa because the IRS responded separately,” Fitzpayne explained in the letter to Coburn. “We mirrored that approach in responding to your request and we informed your staff by email that the data pertained only to Treasury Department offices – which does not include the IRS. We recognize that this may not have been clear and we apologize for any confusion.”
Coburn called Fitzpayne’s explanation is “tenuous.” He wants Treasury to turn over all the conference information for all of its bureaus by July 5.