In an effort to crack down on government waste, the Obama administration issued Friday new guidelines to federal agencies, requiring that they cut travel spending by 30 percent.
The new guidelines came a month after lawmakers learned that the General Services Administration (GSA), the government's procurement agency, carelessly spent more than $820,000 at a convention in Las Vegas in 2010.
One of the Federal government's most fundamental responsibilities is to serve as a careful steward of taxpayer dollars - to make sure that every dollar is well-spent and directed toward areas of high return, wrote Jeff Zients, acting director of the Office of Management and Budget, in announcing the changes. That's a responsibility this Administration takes seriously.
In addition to cutting spending, federal agencies are required to review any conference where spending exceeds $100,000. Moreover, agencies are prohibited from spending more than $500,000 on a conference unless a waiver has been approved by the secretary.
The guidelines also call for agencies to make the prior year's conference spending public each January. This public post will include descriptions of agency conferences that cost more than $100,000.
This new guidance builds upon work already underway to scrutinize travel and conference budgets, Zients wrote. Today's guidance is part of our aggressive efforts to ensure taxpayer dollars are spent wisely without sacrificing the ability of the government to deliver for the American people.
More than $280 million in reduced costs have been generated in the first quarter of fiscal year 2012 when compared to the corresponding period for 2010, Zients informed. The State Department will hold the majority of its conferences in government facilities instead of paying for hotel rentals.
Zients said reducing waste will bring greater savings over time.
These are all common sense steps that will save taxpayer dollars by eliminating waste and improving government operations - all while maintaining the core government functions that the American people count on, he wrote. And they are part of our commitment to take every step necessary to ensure that we're delivering the American people the efficient and effective government they deserve.
Early last month, the GSA inspector general released a report showing how that agency needlessly spent $823,000 in taxpayers' money on clothing for GSA employees and tuxedo rentals, as well as iPods and other electronics and gift cards for GSA employees.
Four congressional hearings were held in April as lawmakers sought to understand whether the overspending was widespread.
It was a whistleblower, Susan Brita, GSA deputy administrator, who shed light on the overspending.
Following the inspector general's report, GSA Administrator Martha Johnson stepped down. Other officials were also ousted from the agency.
Read the Office of Management and Budget guidelines here.