Department of Justice Conference Expenditures

Audit Report 07-42
September 2007
Office of the Inspector General

Chapter 2: Conference Costs

At the outset of our review, we examined information prepared by the JMD Budget Staff in response to the following request from the Subcommittee for conference expenditure information.

Table 2-1


  1. The total amount spent by DOJ and its agencies and offices on conferences – including general support, programming, staff salaries, travel and other associated costs – in each of the previous five FYs, beginning with the most recent year for which such data is available;

  2. A full listing of each conference that received support from DOJ and its agencies and offices during the FY 2005, including the location of the conference, the number of DOJ employees who attended, and the primary sponsor of the conference; and

  3. An estimate of the amount DOJ expects to spend on conferences and related expenses in FY 2006.

Source: Subcommittee request for DOJ conference information dated June 2005

DOJ Conference Lists Compiled by JMD

An official from JMD Budget Staff told us that DOJ does not maintain a single financial reporting system capable of providing the information requested by the Subcommittee. Therefore, to respond to the Subcommittee’s request, JMD issued a data call to financial officials from each DOJ component. The data call stressed that JMD required the actual amount each component spent for each of the three items requested by the Subcommittee. Once JMD Budget Staff received the information from the component contacts, they combined the component figures into a single spreadsheet to represent DOJ FY 2005 expenditures.

During our preliminary discussions with JMD Budget Staff in August 2006, we were told that the Subcommittee had also requested FY 2006 conference-related expenses. JMD officials told us that they were compiling the FY 2006 list in a similar manner as the FY 2005 list. In October 2006, JMD provided us with the final results of their 2006 data call that showed both the updated total conference-related costs in FY 2005 and conference activity for FY 2006 as reported by DOJ components.

A member of JMD’s Budget Staff confirmed that the information provided on the FY 2005 and 2006 lists was, “only as good as the information provided to us by each component.” A review of the JMD conference expenditure lists revealed that DOJ components did not provide JMD with the actual costs for each individual conference, as requested. Instead, we found that some components listed charges related to a series of separate events as individual costs on a single line-item. For instance, a $1.3-million expense reported on the JMD list was actually the annual total cost incurred by sending employees to a DOJ training facility. In another case, a group of training events that occurred at separate locations were identified by a single line-item.

Of particular note, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) submitted the total amount spent on its FY 2006 conferences and provided specific cost information for only three events. We contacted DEA officials, who told us that while the DEA’s financial management system could identify the total amount of conference costs, the system could not readily identify specific conferences and associated expenses.

We asked DEA officials how they responded to the JMD data call. An official with DEA’s Office of Resource Management told us that the DEA could only obtain the requested information by making a data call of its own from each DEA office with a conference budget. The official also told us that because the DEA could not accomplish such a data call within the short period of time allotted by JMD for a response, the DEA would only provide specific cost information for three of its conferences, all of which were sponsored by offices within DEA headquarters in Arlington, Virginia.

Conference Universe and Selection

To produce a single list from which to sort reported conference activity, we combined the individual conference data listed in the final conference listings for FYs 2005 and 2006 compiled by JMD into one spreadsheet and excluded any line-item that encapsulated more than one event. From this list we selected 9 of the most expensive DOJ conferences held within the United States and the most expensive DOJ conference held in a foreign location.

As shown in Table 2-2, six conferences were sponsored by program offices within the Office of Justice Programs (OJP), three were sponsored by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and one was funded by the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS).19

Table 2-2


Formal Conference Name DOJ Sponsor Short Name Location Held Dates Held Reported Cost ($) *
Coordinating Council on Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention’s National Conference: “Building On Success: Providing Today’s Youth With Opportunities for a Better Tomorrow” OJP, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) OJJDP National Conference Washington, D.C. Jan. 9 - 13, 2006 1,085,568
2005 Community Capacity Development Office (CCDO) National Conference: “Strengthening Communities One Block at a Time” OJP, CCDO Weed and Seed Conference Los Angeles, CA Aug. 22 - 25, 2005 875,000
2006 Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN) National Conference OJP, Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) PSN National Conference Denver, CO May 2 - 5, 2006 864,110
4th National Symposium on Victims of Federal Crime OJP, Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) OVC National Symposium Atlanta, GA March 7 - 11, 2005 727,300
2006 CCDO Law Enforcement Conference: “The Spirit of Service: Enforce, Empower, and Revitalize” OJP, CCDO LEC Conference Phoenix, AZ Aug. 14 - 17, 2006 610,000
7th Annual Technologies for Critical Incident Preparedness Conference and Exposition OJP, National Institute of Justice (NIJ) NIJ Technology Conference San Diego, CA Oct. 31 - Nov. 2, 2005 575,550
FBI Annual Polygraph Examiner’s Conference FBI FBI Polygraph Conference Minneapolis, MN June 26 - July 1, 2005 532,000
2006 National Community Policing Conference: “Community Policing: Leading the Way to a Safer Nation” COPS COPS National Conference Washington, D.C. July 27 - 29, 2006 525,000
2006 FBI Information Technology Exchange Conference (ITEC) FBI FBI ITEC Conference San Antonio, TX Aug. 7 -10, 2006 500,000
FBI, Office of International Operations (OIO) Asia Unit Regional Training Conference FBI FBI Cambodia Conference Phnom Penh, Cambodia March 12 - 17, 2006 167,480
Sources: FY 2005 and 2006 conference expenditure listings compiled by JMD, as combined by the OIG
*  “Reported Costs” may be estimates that do not necessarily include personnel or travel costs.

Conference Cost Categories

Since components did not provide JMD with consistent conference cost information, we sought to validate the actual DOJ cost for each event selected from the combined FY 2005 and 2006 conference lists. We worked with the sponsoring DOJ components and external event planners to develop a consistent breakdown of expenses for all 10 conferences. We then sorted each type of identified expense into different general categories that provided an overview of the types of conference costs, as shown in Table 2-3.

Table 2-3


External Event Planning. Labor and indirect costs, overhead fees, general and administrative charges, and travel and related expenses incurred by the event planning contractor or awardee.

Speakers. All speaker or presenter travel and related expenses, honoraria, and fees.

Food and beverages. Any fees or costs regarding food or beverages provided to conference attendees and staff, such as refreshments, breakfasts, and lunches.

Audio-Visual. Expenses related to computers, projectors, lighting, stages, technical assistance, and similar material or services.

Print Media. All costs associated with photography, printing, copying, press release development, Web site design and hosting, and postage.

Subcontractors. Hotels, exhibitors, set-up, security, contracted technical assistance, and payment processing costs, excluding audio-visual assistance and catering services.

Signs and Door Items. Badges, podium logos, gifts, signs, banners, and notepads.

Miscellaneous. All other variable costs that are not captured by the above categories.

DOJ Employee Travel. All training or conference expenses incurred by DOJ employees who traveled to the event.

Source: OIG analysis of conference expenditures

As shown in Table 2-4, the total cost to plan and host these conferences was nearly $6.2 million.20 After calculating each event’s planning and hosting costs, we identified DOJ employees on conference attendee or registration lists. We found that many DOJ personnel who attended these events were not employees of the sponsoring component. Consequently, as described in Appendix I, we requested and received voucher expense information from DOJ components that sent employees to each conference. Using this voucher information, we calculated that DOJ components collectively spent almost $1.9 million to send employees to these 10 conferences.

Table 2-4


Cost Category OJJDP National Conference
Weed and Seed Conference
PSN National Conference
OVC National Symposium
LEC Conference
NIJ Technology Conference
FBI Polygraph Conference
COPS National Conference
FBI ITEC Conference
FBI Cambodia Conference
No. of Days 5 4 4 5 4 3 6 3 4 6  
No. of Registrants 1,831 1,542 1,330 787 1,329 1,315 98 1,437 306 46  
Planning & Hosting (P&H) Costs
1.External Event
605,619 197,565 196,798 310,394 145,767 409,535 n/a 213,174 n/a n/a 2,078,852
2.Speakers 35,742 82,229 31,561 55,356 96,759 95,473 3,682 94,486 0 3,947 499,235
3.Food and
291,940 394,008 108,866 98,350 181,002 175,101 7,468 274,546 8,334 4,219 1,543,834
4.Audio-Visual 62,930 147,779 143,469 148,738 122,577 38,976 1,496 89,185 7,747 0 762,897
5.Print Media 39,040 35,131 9,463 35,077 18,223 14,860 0 24,875 0 0 176,669
6.Subcontractors 313,914 27,623 69,052 103,744 38,972 82,531 0 69,683 0 924 706,443
7.Signs and
    Door Items
2,407 47,215 15,322 3,856 0 0 0 6,488 0 0 75,288
8.Miscellaneous 52,367 10,022 221,473 11,548 0 4,974 0 50,668 0 231 351,283
Total P&H Costs 1,403,959 941,572 796,004 767,063 603,300 821,450 12,646 823,105 16,081 9,321 6,194,501
Multi-Component Costs
9.DOJ Employee
0 105,105 638,371 318,631 124,411 17,576 117,251 1,754 364,966 172,327 1,860,392
0 105,105 638,371 318,631 124,411 17,576 117,251 1,754 364,966 172,327 1,860,392
SUBTOTAL 1,403,959 1,046,677 1,434,375 1,085,694 727,711 839,026 129,897 824,859 381,047 181,648 8,054,893
Other Revenue (505,657) 0 0 0 0 (561,938) 0 0 0 0 (1,067,595)
FINAL DOJ COST $898,302 $1,046,677 $1,434,375 $1,085,694 $727,711 $277,088 $129,897 $824,859 $381,047 $181,648 $6,987,298
Sources: OIG analysis of financial summary reports, drawdowns, and supporting invoices received from sponsoring components and external event
              planning companies and DOJ travel vouchers from DOJ attendees

The total planning and hosting cost incurred by sponsoring components or their event planners includes all variable expenses related to supporting the conference, regardless of the payment’s source. As shown in Table 2-4, however, the total DOJ component cost was offset, in part, for two conferences.

These two events used more than $1 million in non-appropriated DOJ funds to offset the sponsoring component’s hosting and planning costs. Consequently, our review also captures activities paid for by these non-DOJ sources.

Neither the sponsoring component nor the total DOJ cost for each event reconciles to the corresponding cost reported to and used by JMD for its FY 2005 and 2006 conference expenditure lists submitted to the Subcommittee. We discussed the difference between the reported and actual DOJ costs with both JMD and sponsoring component officials. Despite specific instructions to component officials, we confirmed that components did not uniformly report their conference costs to JMD. Regarding the 10 conferences we selected for review, the discrepancies between calculated conference costs and the JMD-reported costs stem primarily from components: (1) reporting budgeted, awarded, or estimated costs instead of actual expenses; and (2) inconsistently including travel and personnel costs in their figures.

Selecting Conference Costs

Since our audit involved 10 different conferences that had different sponsors, event planners, attendees, and locations, we focused our review on certain types of costs that were incurred at each of the conferences. Excluding the DOJ employee travel costs incurred and approved by several different components, we compared the total amounts spent by sponsoring components or event planners for each cost category. As shown in Table 2-5, three cost categories – external event planning, food and beverages, and audio-visual – represent nearly $ 4.4 million, or 71 percent, of the $6.2 million spent to plan and host the 10 conferences.

Table 2-5


Cost Category Total Costs
% Other Categories-29%, External Event Planning-34%, Food and Beverages-25%, Audio-Visusl-12%.
1. External Event
2,078,852 34
2. Speakers 499,235 8
3. Food and
1,543,834 25
4. Audio-Visual 762,897 12
5. Printed Media 176,669 3
6. Subcontractors 706,443 11
7. Signs and
    Door Items
75,288 1
8. Miscellaneous 351,283 6
TOTALS $6,194,501 100
Source: OIG analysis of component and external event planning records

Considering the amount spent on event planning, food and beverages, and audio-visual equipment varied greatly between conferences, we focused our review on these three cost categories. See Appendix I for more details on our methodology.


Our selection of 10 high dollar conferences to review for the audit revealed that DOJ components did not report individual conference expenditures consistently. In particular, we found that the DEA reported only the total amount spent on its conferences and detailed specific cost information for only three FY 2006 events. When components report only estimated or budgeted conference costs instead of actual costs, DOJ cannot completely or accurately report the actual cost of its conferences.


We recommend that JMD:

  1. Work with DOJ components to provide a uniform way to calculate and report conference costs.

We recommend that the DEA:

  1. Implement procedures allowing for it to report individual conference expenditures when requested by JMD or other oversight entity.

  1. Appendix III presents facts, figures, and summaries pertaining to each selected conference.

  2. This figure does not include DOJ personnel or other operational costs.

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