NASA Overspends on Bagels, Soda at Conferences
NASA is spending more than it should to cater conferences for space agency events ? at one point spending $66 a day for each person to make sure attendees have enough sodas, bagels and other snacks, according to a new report.
The 26-page report, submitted Tuesday by NASA?s Inspector General office, found that NASA spent $62,611 on snacks alone during a December 2008 training conference on procurement issues ? or how best to spend taxpayer money on agency needs. That boils down to $66 a day for each of the 317 people attending the conference, the report stated.
Those costs, which were just part of the overall $495,173 price tag of the conference in Baltimore, Md., were ?excessive,? according to the report, which reviewed eight NASA conferences held in the 2009 fiscal year.
NASA should set up guidelines for the costs of meals and other services for agency-sponsored conferences similar to those used by the U.S. Justice Department, which sets a cap for meal-spending per person for each day, based on the total daily expenses, the report stated.
NASA also overspent on meals for a different conference, this one focused on aeronautics, in Atlanta, the report went on to say. There, NASA spent $58,450 of the total $535,149 conference price tag on meals for the conference?s 650 attendees, but the space agency should have only spent about $26,000, the Inspector General office found.
The space agency could also have saved nearly $50,000 on those meals if it had just paid for the meals of NASA workers and contractors, instead of everyone who attended the conference, the report said.
The report also criticized NASA for not seeking out the most affordable location for the conferences reviewed by soliciting estimates for other venues.
NASA officials agreed with many of the findings and recommendations made in the new report, and stressed that the space agency will do better in planning future conferences. New guidelines should be drawn up to better manage costs within the next month or so, they added.
The eight meetings studied in the report were organized before NASA overhauled its conference planning after an earlier review in 2008, the officials added.
?Since then, NASA has improved its conference planning and cost controls along the lines recommended in the report,? NASA?s deputy chief financial officer Terry Bowie wrote in the response.
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