Finance News & Insights

What budget? The $822K T&E bill taxpayers will foot


You’d think the $3,200 employees of the GSA spent on a mind reader could have told them this business trip wasn’t a good idea!

Forget the hookers in Columbia! There’s a major T&E scandal a different agency of the federal government is currently embroiled in.

And while your business travelers aren’t likely to rack up close to a million dollars on a single trip anytime soon, there are lessons for every organization in where things went so wrong. Check out the five main places things went off the rails:

  1. They overspent. 22% tips and $136,504 on planning and a pre-meeting dry run. Meal charges consistently exceeded their daily allowance — $29,568 over the per diem allowance for breakfasts alone!
  2. They failed to follow contracting policies. The government had very specific policies as to whom they could contract with and the prices they could pay. But GSA employees stepped way out of bounds on this, cutting side deals for upgrades (sometimes to the executive suites!) in exchange for their business.
  3. They submitted unallowable expenses. There were certain things, like $3,200 sessions with a mind reader, $400 on tuxedo rentals and $6,325 on commemorative coins in velvet boxes.
  4. They spent outside of their authority. Certain levels of employees weren’t permitted to make certain spending decisions … but they did it anyway. Also, things like planning meetings were not allowed refreshment breaks, which the employees held anyway and then expensed.
  5. They had no cost control in mind. This is a matter of organizational culture.  The GSA employees never would have racked up nearly seven figures in expenses if they didn’t think the organization would tolerate it on some level (or at least turn a blind eye).

Yes, it’s a dramatic example.

But each of these things could happen on a smaller scale on any given day in your own company.  Seems like the perfect time for a refresher for all your company’s employees (as well as all approving managers) on what’s allowed and what’s not in your own T&E policies.

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  • Anne

    You would think the federal government could at least try to oversee their own departments a little better. But when you have a president who spends like there’s no tomorrow, what else can you expect? They need to start cutting the fat, starting with the people that can’t stop when they’re supposed to. This is the only way people in government are going to stop. We need fiscal responsibility. What is that, you ask? STAY WITHIN A BUDGET SO WE TAXPAYERS DON’T HAVE TO KEEP PAYING FOR YOUR FUN! You’re no better than someone on welfare who won’t find a job!

    Once your bosses get voted out of office in November, you may not have all the perks you’re giving yourselves come next year.