A Washington-based government watchdog group has uncovered over $1 million spent by federal agencies on souvenirs over the course of the Obama administration.
Items include yo-yos, water bottles and trophies.
“Our investigation shows that a federal government culture of waste, fraud and mismanagement remains an unchecked liability throughout federal agencies,” Cause of Action executive director Dan Epstein said in a press release. “A cavalier attitude toward the efficient use of tax dollars permeates the executive branch.”
After the GSA scandal last November, President Obama issued an executive order saying that “[a]gencies should limit the purchase of promotional items (e.g., plaques, clothing and commemorative items), in particular where they are not cost-effective.”
Cause of Action sent out 32 Freedom of Information Act requests in April seeking the production of documents disclosing information regarding spending on commemorative items. The initial responses from nine agencies, including the Departments of Justice, Homeland Security and Agriculture, turned up documents revealing $1,123,118 in spending.
The investigation reveals Department of the Interior’s Fish and Wildlife Service spent over $86,000 on commemorative items between 2009 and 2012, and the Department of Justice spent over $12,000 on commemorative items for a single conference.
One office in the Agriculture Department even spent $38,870 on GPS systems, Nook 3G digital readers, Apple iPods, and Nikon Coolpix cameras for staff members.
One of the largest budgets, the Department of Defense, told Cause of Action that they have no means for tracking promotional spending, making any type of accountability impossible.
“While some agencies track their spending, revealing patterns of waste, others don’t even bother to document it,” Epstein said.
“Just in the past year we’ve seen reports of the Government Services Administration and Veterans Affairs conference spending scandals, Secretary Sebelius’s Hatch Act violations, and conflict of interest violations by NLRB Acting General Counsel Lafe Solomon,” Epstein continued.
“It is clear that those in the current Administration with the responsibility to steward taxpayer dollars, the President included, are not taking their jobs, nor a commitment to ethics and transparency, seriously.”
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