(CNSNews.com) – The scandal surrounding a $4.1 million training conference staged by the Internal Revenue Service in 2010 can’t be fixed by recommendations in a report by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) said during a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing on Thursday.
“Mr. Inspector General, we can adopt all the recommendations you could possibly conceive of,” Gowdy said. “I just tell you it strikes me – and maybe it’s just me – but it strikes me as a cultural, systemic, character, moral issue.”
The three witnesses in the first panel of the hearing were Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration J. Russell George; Gregory Kutz, assistant inspector general for Audit Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration; and Faris Fink, commissioner of the small business and self-employed division at the IRS – head of the division that staged the conference in Anaheim, Calif.
Gowdy said IRS officials should have known better than to stage lavish conferences, especially in tough times.
“They’ve had 100 years to figure out that while your fellow Americans are losing their jobs, and their health insurance, and their homes, you do not spend $4 million at a conference, for which there is no accountability,” Gowdy said.
“When your fellow citizens – the ones who pay your salary – are struggling,” Gowdy said. “That is a character issue. Training cannot fix that.”
“You don’t need an IG report to tell you that spending $27,000 for someone to talk about how random combinations of ideas can drive radical innovations,” Gowdy said. “There’s not a webinar in the world that’s going to fix that.”
Gowdy, who worked as a federal prosecutor in South Carolina before coming to Congress, said the hearing brought to mind the people who were struggling to make ends meet during that same time period, including a single mom who borrowed money from him.
“At exactly the same time that young government employee single mom was borrowing money for a child’s birthday present,” Gowdy said, “other government employees were staying in $3,500 dollar a night rooms.
“Other government employees were spending more money on promotional materials than that young woman makes in a year,” Gowdy said.
“And other government employees were spending more money on audience participation tools than that young woman makes in a year,” Gowdy said.
According to the May 31 IG report on the conference (page 20) the IRS spent $64,000 on promotional items and gifts at the conference, including $27,000 on promotional materials at the “information corridor booths,” and $15,669 on “brief bags” emblazoned with the conference logo “Leading into the Future.”