OMB has revised policies regarding agency spending on conferences–which were issued in the wake of disclosures of wasteful spending by GSA and other agencies–which it says have reduced conference spending by nearly a quarter, for a $30 million saving, since 2013.
“It is imperative that the federal government continue to build on these efforts to improve how we conduct business and provide services to the American people while increasing public transparency. At the same time, it is also imperative that our efforts not undercut or prevent agencies from achieving their mission or create new significant cost in an effort to be compliant with review and reporting requirements,” memo M-17-08 says.
It says that while the earlier-imposed controls of spending must continue, they should not be applied so strictly as to “impede on our nation’s civil servants, who are in many cases the world’s leading scientists, ability to engage their counterparts outside of the federal government, participate in activities that enhance their skills and contribute expertise to the larger professional communities, and enhance their overall ability to deliver upon their missions and breakthrough advancements in medicine and science.”
It says that agencies should mainly focus on federally-sponsored or -hosted conferences and are to: ensure that funds are used only for necessary and appropriate purposes and that all expenses and activities comply with requirements on lodging, food and beverages, per diem reimbursement, and contracting of goods and services; ensure that conference attendance and expenses are appropriate to the purpose of the conference and the mission of the agency; designate an official responsible for determining whether an estimated expense in excess of $500,000 on a single conference is the most cost effective option to achieve a compelling purpose; and report on their conference spending on their websites.
For conferences not federally-sponsored or hosted, “agencies and employees must continue to exercise discretion and judgment in ensuring that all conference expenses are appropriate, necessary, and managed in a prudent manner.”