Budgets + Revenue

About Those $16 Muffins…

'Muffingate' comes from a CBS News report on the same topic. Funny!


Three years ago it was the AIG Effect. Today it’s called Muffingate. Literally today — with a new report from the U.S. Department of Justice’s inspector general decrying “wasteful or extravagant spending” at DOJ conferences, splashed on the front page of this morning’s Washington Post.

Titled “Audit of Department of Justice Conference Planning and Food and Beverage Costs,” the report offers an audit of Department of Justice conference planning and food and beverage costs for 10 meetings that DOJ held between October 2007 and September 2009. It follows up on a similar review conducted in September 2007, which found that “DOJ had few internal controls to limit the expense of conference planning and food and beverage costs at DOJ conferences,” and which issued 14 recommendations to help “implement stronger oversight of conference expenditures.” The new report finds that, as far as the inspector general is concerned, nothing much has changed. Two headline-ready takeways:

  • “For event planning services, DOJ spent $600,000 (14 percent of costs) to hire training and technical assistance providers as external event planners for 5 of the 10 conferences reviewed. This was done without demonstrating that these firms offered the most cost effective logistical event planning services. Further, these event planners did not accurately track and report conference expenditures.”
  • “Our assessment of food and beverage charges revealed that some DOJ components did not minimize conference costs as required by federal and DOJ guidelines. For example, one conference served $16 muffins while another served Beef Wellington hors d’oeuvres that cost $7.32 per serving. Coffee and tea at the events cost between $0.62 and $1.03 an ounce. At the $1.03 per-ounce price, an 8­ ounce cup of coffee would have cost $8.24.”

Those $16 muffins are proving to be the real killer, because, c’mon, how can you possibly justify $16 a throw for breakfast pastries? Well, the good folks on the MeCo Google Group have some thoughts on that, in case anyone at DOJ is listening. Their active discussion is here, and includes lots of thoughtful parsing.

Photo by PAUL / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Christopher Durso

Christopher Durso formerly was executive editor of Convene.