War on Terrorism

Thursday, December 17, 2009

DHS Conference Spending Practices and Oversight

The Department of Homeland Security conducts conferences for a variety of purposes, including employee and stakeholder training, information sharing, and mission support. During FYs 20052007, the department reportedly spent approximately $110 million on conference-related activities spending approximately $60 million in direct costs and an additional $50 million identified as salary expenses for employees attending the conference. At the request of Representative Bennie G. Thompson, Chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, we reviewed the department’s conference spending practices and evaluated its policies, oversight, and reporting of conference planning and related expenditures.

Specifically, we assessed the total amount spent by t he department on producing or facilitating conferences, retreats, and other offsite activities for FYs 2005, 2006, and 2007. For each component, we further analyzed budgets, funds spent on conferences, the number and locations of conferences, full-time equivalent staff allotments, an d employee attendance at conferences. From this analysis and comparison, we selected five components and examined 11 conferences in more detail. In addition, we obtained a full listing of each conference that received funding or staffing support from the department during FY 2007.

Although we did not review all Department of Homeland Security components, this report seeks to identify areas in which the department can leverage best practices and generate new efficiencies.

The department has made progress in developing department-wide conference planning policies. However, work is still needed to provide clear, consistent, and adequate guidance and instructions. For example, 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. In addition, the department needs coordination across components to ensure that duplication of efforts related to sponsoring conferences is minimized.

We are making 12 recommendations to assist the Directorate for Management in improving oversight and reporting of conference planning activities across the department. In response to our report, Management has proposed plans and taken action that, once fully implemented, will enhance its oversight and reporting capabilities. The department concurred with all 12 recommendations.

View the report

http://www.dhs.gov/xoig/assets/mgmtrpts/OIG_10-19_Nov09.pdf

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