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NASA Overspends on Bagels, Soda at Conferences

NASA is spending more than it should to cater conferencesfor space agency events ? at one point spending $66 a day for each person tomake sure attendees have enough sodas, bagels and other snacks, according to anew report.

The 26-page report, submitted Tuesday by NASA?sInspector General office, found that NASA spent $62,611 on snacks alone during aDecember 2008 training conference on procurement issues ? or how best to spend taxpayermoney on agency needs. That boils down to $66 a day for each of the 317people attending the conference, the report stated.

Thosecosts, which were just part of the overall $495,173 price tag of the conferencein Baltimore, Md., were ?excessive,? according to the report, which reviewedeight NASA conferences held in the 2009 fiscal year.

NASAshould set up guidelines for the costs ofmeals and other services for agency-sponsored conferences similar to thoseused by the U.S. Justice Department, which sets a cap for meal-spending perperson for each day, based on the total daily expenses, the report stated.

NASAalso overspent on meals for a different conference, this one focused onaeronautics, in Atlanta, the report went on to say. There, NASA spent $58,450of the total $535,149 conference price tag on meals for the conference?s 650attendees, but the space agency should have only spent about $26,000, the InspectorGeneral office found.

Thespace agency could also have saved nearly $50,000 on those meals if it had justpaid for the meals of NASA workers and contractors, instead of everyone whoattended the conference, the report said.

Thereport also criticizedNASA for not seeking out the most affordable location for the conferencesreviewed by soliciting estimates for other venues.

NASAofficials agreed with many of the findings and recommendations made in the newreport, and stressed that the space agency will do better in planning futureconferences. New guidelines should be drawn up to better manage costs withinthe next month or so, they added.

Theeight meetings studied in the report were organized before NASA overhauled itsconference planning after an earlier review in 2008, the officials added.

?Sincethen, NASA has improved its conference planning and cost controls along thelines recommended in the report,? NASA?s deputy chief financial officer TerryBowie wrote in the response.

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