Go figure: The humble muffin has become a government change agent.
In what is probably the first-ever Office of Management and Budget directive with a connection to overpriced baked goods, Director Jack Lew is ordering agencies to take stock of their conference spending and report back by Nov. 1.
The impetus, of course, is that newly released report by the Justice Department’s inspector general that uncovered numerous examples of questionable expenses at DOJ conferences from October 2007 through September 2009. What really caught the attention of politicians and the media, however, was the finding that muffins at one Washington gathering cost more than $16 each.
No matter that the hotel in question furnished the iced tea and coffee free of charge; this is not the message that a focused-on-efficiency administration wants to convey. In today’s memo, Lew, while not singling out specific instances, cites the IG report as a reminder of “how important it is that agencies undertake all due diligence to protect taxpayer resources from unnecessary expenditures.”
Under orders from President Obama, he continues, agencies must now conduct “a thorough review” of policies and controls related to conference activities and spending. (In the meantime, all such expenses have to be cleared at the deputy secretary level or the equivalent.) OMB will compile the results for Vice President Joe Biden, who will have them on the agenda of a December meeting of agency heads tied to the administration’s Campaign to Cut Waste.
No word on whether pastries will be served.