While shocking stories were appearing in the news of Mexican cartels controlling hundreds of square miles of U.S. territory up to 70 miles north of the border, the Department of Homeland Security was spending millions of dollars on employee conferences — and hiding the total amount it was spending from government overseers.
According to an audit report by the Office of Inspector General, DHS spent $21.8 million on conferences in 2014 and 2015 combined. It failed to report more than half of the conferences on which it spent more than $100,000, as it is required to do under federal regulations.
“The mammoth agency created after 9/11 to prevent another terrorist attack fails miserably to protect the southern border, to bust dangerous visa overstays, and to remove criminal illegal aliens — but it knows how to throw a party for employees and ‘stakeholders,'” conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch wrote in a press release on July 25.
In the audit report, the inspector general wrote that DHS failed to report six conferences in fiscal year 2014 and 14 in fiscal year 2015 that cost more than $100,000, and sometimes underreported costs, or did not have documentation to support all costs.
In fiscal year 2014, DHS spent a total of $11.4 million on 433 conferences, and in fiscal year 2015 a total of $10.4 million on 478 conferences.
The Department of Homeland Security has a budget of $40.6 billion and employs more than 240,000 people. It includes U.S. Customs and Border Protection, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Secret Service, and the U.S. Coast Guard.
The audit report does not show where the conferences took place, or how many employees attended, but other Homeland Security documents detail specific conferences, such as a Women in Federal Law Enforcement conference in Washington, D.C., that took place Aug. 25-27, 2014, with the event description saying the organization’s goal is to “achieve equity for women in law enforcement by maximizing the benefits of gender diversity.” The conference cost taxpayers $125,248.
In 2015, the second year covered by the audit, the U.S. was dealing with an enormous influx of unaccompanied minors who were streaming over the U.S.-Mexico border. In June of that year, 10,622 minors from Mexico and Central America illegally crossed the border, the vast majority of them males ages 15-17. The federal government later revealed that up to 30 percent of the unaccompanied minors it was caring for had ties to criminal gangs.
Thousands of these minors were placed in communities around the country, and some went on to commit serious crimes, including murder.
The cost of the conferences was highlighted in the audit because of government regulations introduced under former President Barack Obama that required agencies to eliminate excess spending on conferences and report any event that cost more than $100,000. But the Trump administration has since repealed this rule.
“Apparently, the measures weren’t very effective but eliminating them doesn’t seem like a solution either,” Judicial Watch wrote in its July 25 release to the media. “There’s no telling the abuses that a massive agency like DHS, with more than 240,000 employees and an annual budget of $40.6 billion, will commit without proper oversight.”
Here we are in 2017, and we’re just now seeing reports of the millions that DHS wasted in 2014 and 2015. With today’s technology there is very little reason for conferences. Since these people aren’t spending their own money, it doesn’t much matter to them if they blow a bunch of money on lavish hotels and nightly cocktails. It makes no sense that Trump repealed that rule – in fact, he should have tightened it down to about $50,000.
Meanwhile, the Border Patrol was working short-handed and cobbled by Obama. That kind of money would have a gone a long way toward easing their burden, plus it would have housed and fed hundreds of those illegal immigrants that were pouring in, thereby eliminating the need for grants given to charities charged with that duty.
Apparently, there are no accountants in our government requiring these people to have expenditures approved and then report said costs in a timely manner. Most all companies require monthly income and expense statements for each of their departments that are combined into a month-end financial statement. This is done every single month and at the end of the year it’s compiled into a year-end report.
Every business has a bookkeeper of some kind, whether it’s an entire floor of number-crunchers or one person in the back room of the store.
Except the federal government.