WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Susan Collins, R-Me., Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said Thursday that an independent examination into the travel and conference expenses of DHS employees raised questions about record-keeping and documentation.
Senator Collins said the Department of Homeland Security, the focus of the probe, needs to immediately implement the 12 recommendations made by its Inspector General. The DHS has agreed with the assessments. The IG report was made public today.
“The recent findings of the Inspector General that DHS employees failed to account properly for travel and conference expenses raise questions about whether taxpayers’ dollars were spent wisely,” said Senator Collins.
“During FY2005-2007, DHS sent employees to conferences in 43,989 instances. And, according to data reported by the Department, approximately $110 million was spent on 8,359 conferences during that same time period.
“While some of this travel is related to essential training and exercise programs, the IG’s findings do not inspire confidence that the Department ensured careful stewardship of the taxpayers’ money,” she said. “The bottom line is clear: DHS must improve oversight of this spending to achieve the public confidence that the Department needs to accomplish its critical missions.”
For the report, the IG reviewed the Department’s conference spending practices and evaluated its policies, oversight, and reporting of conference planning and related expenditures. It examined a sampling of conferences, focusing on 11, and reviewed five component agencies within DHS.
According the IG report, “Conference cost data did not contain sufficient supporting documentation, and were unreliable, unverifiable, and provided little assurance that all conferences and related costs were tracked and accounted for properly.”
Overall the IG found that DHS has made progress in developing department-wide conference planning policies; however, it also found that more can be done to provide clear, consistent, and adequate guidance and instructions.
The DHS said that improvements to its program on travel and facility use have begun and have already generated significant savings in conference activities. In addition, work is underway to build a comprehensive DHS policy on conferences.