Recent reports of excessive spending on conferences for the IRS contain a quote that I find really puzzling. Here's acting IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel talking about a 2010 manager’s conference for 2,600 people in Anaheim, Calif.:
“This conference is an unfortunate vestige from a prior era. While there were legitimate reasons for holding the meeting, many of the expenses associated with it were inappropriate and should not have occurred,” said acting IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel. “Taxpayers should take comfort that a conference like this would not take place today."
Assuming that the spending was excessive—which I really can't say, not having looked at the line items and seeing if they were in fact higher than industry standards (though I have to say the presidential suites and lack of negotiation on room rates sound pretty bad)—I'm trying to think of what has changed since 2010 that it was OK then and not now, other than the press getting hold of it.
The AIG Effect was in full swing back then, and we were just starting to see the light at the end of the recessionary tunnel, neither of which screams to me, "Hey, let's have a blowout." Maybe because it was pre-GSA scandal and the resulting new rules, government meeting contractors thought they could fly under the radar still? But it still begs the question of why that prior era existed to begin with.
I just hope this is the last of this sort of boondoggle story, be it about a corporate, association, or governmental meeting, that I have to read. But somehow, I doubt it will be. The most I think I can legitimately expect is that at least the conferences under fire will continue to be from that prior era.