Unnecessary conference spending at the Department of Commerce could have been avoided, a new agency inspector general report has found.
The National Institute of Standards and Technology's Manufacturing Extension Partnership program spent an estimated $1.1 million at its 2012 annual conference in Orlando, the IG found.
Despite only five MEP center leaders believing their employees were required to participate in the conference, its total cost ballooned to $1,108,943.
"The American people expect Congress to prevent these boondoggles before they happen, not merely criticize them after the fact. That's why it's important for Congress to pass the Conference Accountability Act, which has passed the Senate unanimously in the past," said Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla.
The IG also found that the conference event planner, International Management and Consulting LCC, retained concessions and benefits from the hotel that "could have been used to reduce the conference cost."
Concessions between IMC and Marriott included 16 complimentary golf passes, one complimentary premium bar caption for two hours worth up to $15,000 and 10 $30 VIP complimentary amenities.
Evening receptions, including food, alcohol and live entertainment were provided free to conference participants, the report said.
The MEP program has had issues with excessive conference spending before the IG report was issued, including allegations by four members of Congress that the agency spent between $3-5 million at the Orlando event.
View the full report here.
UPDATE:This post has been updated to make clear that congressional allegations reported before the present IG report was issued were focused on the 2012 annual conference, not "another event in Orlando."