DOJ Spent $58M on Conferences in FY 2012

April 10, 2013 - 11:09 AM

Holder Prison Furloughs

In this March 6, 2013 photo, Attorney General Eric Holder testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

( - The U.S. Justice Department spent more than $58 million on conferences in Fiscal Year 2012 -- and that doesn't include spending on conferences that cost less than $20,000, the DOJ inspector general told Congress on Wednesday.

Inspector-General Michael E. Horowitz told a House judiciary subcommittee that conference spending is one area the DOJ "should scrutinize" as it tries to reduce waste and inefficiency in a tight budget climate.

"Although the Department has reported reducing these expenditures by $7 million in the last year and $33 million in total over the last two years, it nevertheless reported spending over $58 million on conferences in FY 2012, and that number excludes spending on conferences that cost less than $20,000 and conferences that were not predominantly for DOJ attendees," Horowitz said in his prepared testimony.

"We believe that the current budgetary environment demands that the Department search for adequate alternatives to conferences, such as video conferencing, and that it strongly consider restricting its conference spending even further."

The IG said the Justice Department's most pressing problem is the growing cost of the federal prison system, which houses "a continually growing and aging population of federal inmates" -- 218,000 inmates in October 2012, an increase of more than 13 percent since FY 2006.

"The federal prison system is consuming an ever-larger portion of the Department’s budget, making safe and secure incarceration increasingly difficult to provide, and threatening to force significant budgetary and programmatic cuts to other DOJ components in the near future," Horowitz said.

The IG said the DOJ should make better use of existing programs to realize cost savings and reduce overcrowding. He mentioned a program that allows certain foreign inmates to return to their home countries to complete their sentences; and a compassionate release program that allows the release of prisoners under "compelling conditions," such as terminal illness.