There’s more bad news for the Internal Revenue Service.
The Treasury Department’s inspector general for tax administration released a scathing report on Tuesday detailing how the federal tax agency spent nearly $50 million on lavish conferences between 2010 and 2012.
That includes shelling out $4.1 million for a conference for 2,600 managers in Anaheim, Calif. three years ago, where some employees stayed in suites that currently cost between $1,500 and $3,500 a night. The agency also spent $50,000 to produce two videos shown at one of the events, including one where employees learned the “Cupid shuffle dance.” The video has been garnering negative attention this week.
The findings come as the IRS is already under fire for targeting conservative groups 18 months before the 2012 election. There have already been five congressional hearings on the issue in the last few weeks, including one on Tuesday, in which conservative organizations and the Tea Party aired their grievances to the House Ways and Means Committee.
Daniel Werfel, the new acting head of the Internal Revenue Service who was appointed by Obama in the aftermath of the scandal, has called the conferences an “unfortunate vestige from a prior era.” He added that “While there were legitimate reasons for holding the meeting, many of the expenses associated with it were inappropriate and should not have occurred.”
Here are some more key findings from the audit:
-The IG calls a number of expenses at the Anaheim conference “questionable,” including fees for outside speakers, video production, and gifts for IRS employees.
-The IRS actually reduced its spending on conferences from about $37.5 million in Fiscal Year 2010 to $4.8 million in Fiscal Year 2012.
-The IRS did not use its own employees to find the most cost effective location for the Anaheim conference, which is mandated by IRS policy. Instead, they hired outside event planners not under contract with the IRS. The three hotels where IRS employees stayed paid the event planners about $133,000 commission.
-The IRS specifically asked for “numerous upgraded rooms and other concessions” from the Anaheim hotels. The overall cost of the rooms could have been lowered if the tax agency negotiated a lower room rate instead.
-The IRS spent $50,187 to make videos, including the “Cupid shuffle” and a Star Trek parody of the Anaheim conference.
-The IRS contracted with 15 outside speakers in Anaheim for a total fee of $135,350. One keynote speaker was paid $27,500, which included a $2,500 fee for first class airfare. He gave two, hour-long speeches.
-Another speaker was paid $17,000. He painted pictures of Michael Jordan and U2 singer Bono to motivate employees.
-Several gifts and promotional items were provided to attendees, costing more than $64,000. Gifts included “brief bags” with a log, spiral journals, lanyards, travel mugs, picture frames, and clocks.
-The guests in Anaheim were not required to document their attendance at the training sessions.
-The inspector general said it could not be certain the amounts reported represented the full accounting of conference costs
-The Anaheim conference was the priciest. But other conferences included one in San Diego for 721 employees, which cost $1.2 million. A technical training symposium in Philadelphia in 2010 for 2,113 participants cost about $3 million.