"New Culture of Restraint" In U.S. Government Spending
At a Senate hearing on government conference and travel spending this past week, top administration officials and three inspectors general described "a new culture of restraint" in federal spending on events, triggered by both bad publicity and sharp spending cuts, the Washington Post has reported.
In the wake of the Internal Revenue Service and the General Services Administration conference scandals, Washington has unveiled safeguards to prevent abuses--but some of these were deemed restrictive by industry professionals. At PCMA's Convening Leaders conference, David Peckinpaugh, president of Maritz Travel and co-chair of the recently launched Meetings Mean Business coalition, noted the general spending limit of $500,000 for government conferences, calling it "onerous." The cost of a conference, he said, depends on its size and the number of attendees. Under these restrictions, he added, some federal events were canceled.
As the Post noted, the $1.1 trillion funding bill congressional negotiators unveiled last week includes some significant limitations on government events: Agencies would have to submit reports to their inspector general on any conference that costs more than $100,000 and include the number of participants, the purpose and a detailed breakdown of food and other costs. Inspectors general also would have to be informed of conferences that cost more than $20,000; and agencies could not send more than 50 employees to an international conference unless it involves law enforcement personnel.
Time will tell how these measures will affect large-scale conferences and events for government employees, but with new associations like Meetings Mean Business forming and increased support from a broader range of representatives and senators, 2014 may see a stronger year for federal events.