U.S. Senator Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) has co-sponsored an amendment that would increase transparency and accountability of government-sponsored conferences while imposing new travel limitations.
In light of the current Government Services Administration scandal, this amendment would reduce the amount a federal agency can spend on travel to 80 percent of the amount spent in 2010.
Agencies would also be required to post a quarterly report on each conference for which the agency paid travel expenses, including total cost, location, justification of participation, and an explanation as to why the conference was more cost effective than a teleconference. Agencies would also be required to post detailed information on their websites on any presentation made by any employee of that agency at a conference, including speeches, visual exhibits and videos.
"The excessive, gluttonous spending of taxpayer dollars by GSA officials to dole out luxurious trips and other benefits is outrageous, if not potentially criminal. This amendment would force agencies to account for the dollars they spend on conferences and justify their participation at these events," Sen. Toomey said. "The federal government spent more than $2 billion on conferences from 2000 to 2006 - it's time for agencies to realize they must answer to the American people as to how they spend taxpayer dollars."
The amendment was filed to S. 1789, the 21st Century Postal Service Act of 2012, currently pending on the Senate floor. The amendment is sponsored by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and co-sponsored by Sens. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), Mike Lee (R-Utah), John McCain (R-Ariz.), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), and John Thune (R-S.D.).
The amendment also would:
* Cap the amount of agency funds that can be spent on a single conference at $500,000.
* Allow non-federal foundations and sources to provide financial support for a conference, but require a listing of such sponsors and a certification that there is no conflict of interest resulting from the financial support.
* Prohibit agencies from spending funds on more than one conference per fiscal year sponsored by an outside organization.
* Limit overseas agency conferences to no more than 50 federal employees stationed in the United States (unless the State Department deems a larger number is in the national interest).