Friday, September 14, 2007

Justice Department eats on U.S!

Here is something I found on that just troubles me as a taxpayer and as someone who has an interest in conferences.

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Hungry attendees at Justice Department conferences have been enjoying millions of dollars in meatballs and other goodies courtesy of U.S. taxpayers, according to an inspector general's report released Friday.

The Justice Department paid more than $13,000 for cookies at conferences, says a report released Friday.

The report cited $5 meatballs and cans of soft drinks each costing $4.55 among reasons 10 conferences during 2005 and 2006 cost nearly $7 million.

One four-day conference of 1,500 people in Los Angeles cost the Justice Department $394,000 in August 2005.

"Overall this conference's daily food expense averaged $64 per registrant, which exceeded the approved federal per diem rate of $51 for meals," the report said.

The 128-page report does not suggest laws were broken, although it questions the Justice Department's judgment when it comes to the cost of its events.

In addition to the platters of Swedish meatballs and soda pop, the Justice Department paid more than $13,000 for cookies, according to the inspector general's office.

A Senate committee requested the report on Justice Department conferences, which, in fiscal year 2006, cost taxpayers nearly $46 million, including travel, programming, food and associated costs. Year to year costs show such meetings have totaled from $33.8 million in 2001 to a high of $58 million in 2004.

The 2005 Los Angeles event — which was called the "Weed and Seed" national conference — attracted particular attention from the audit's authors.

It "included a $53 per person two-entree and dessert lunch for 120 attendees, a one-hour $64,000 'Stars and Stripes' themed networking reception and a post-conference meeting for 30 DOJ employees who were provided a sandwich buffet lunch at a cost of $44 per person and an 'At the Movies' theme snack (candy, popcorn, and soft drinks) for an additional $25 per person," the report said.

The report, from the Office of Inspector General, Glenn Fine, expressed concern that most of the conference attendees failed to deduct their allowable per diem meal costs because they received free meals.

"When component managers do not systematically review vouchers to ensure that such deductions are made, the government effectively pays for the meals twice," the report said.

Another meeting detailed in the report was a 2006 COPS National Conference in Washington. Some 1,100 attendees were offered daily breakfast buffets, two lunches, a networking reception, and two "themed breaks."

"The networking reception itself cost more than $60,000 and included a chef-carved roast beef and turkey, a penne pasta station, and platters of Swedish meatballs at a cost of nearly $5 per meatball," the report said. "The average food and beverage cost per day for the COPS conference was $83 per attendee -- $19 dollars over the $64 federal per diem meal rate for Washington."

Among the report's recommendations: Planners should compare costs in multiple sites in multiple cities unless there is a special reason a meeting needs to be held in a particular city.

The report also called for developing conference food and beverage policies "to ensure adequate justification of significant food and beverage costs."

The Justice Department said it agreed with the recommendations.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Not easy finding time to blog

Blogging can be time consuming and it is difficult to find the time when working full time. Meanwhile I have a home-based trade show newspaper — Trade Show Expo —  that I am always working on. I try to add more content to the Web site and I also answer e-mail. Adding a blog was an idea that I hoped would be easy to do and may even get my business site noticed.

I missed a chanc to comment on Brittney, Sen. Craig and to pay homage to victims of 9/11. August and September have been busy months.

Today I found a Web site that address how to find the time to blog.

The Influential Marketing Blog by Rohit Bhargava had some good tips to blogging including:

  1. Set a realistic target. This is the first and most important rule. Expecting yourself to post every day is not only going to burn you out quickly ... it's probably also going to quickly make you feel like you are failing. My target is 3 high quality posts per week, and most weeks I can hit that. The quality is debatable ... but at least I don't have to finish each week feeling blog guilt ...

  2. Let go of your blog guilt. I had a great conversation with John Bell many months ago which I still remember, about the idea of blog guilt. We both have it, as most other bloggers do. It's that moment when you realize that you haven't posted for some extended amount of time, and you feel guilty for it. Even more dangerous is after blog guilt often comes writing paralysis when you are not sure what to write or feel that you should apologize for being absent. Get over it.

There are plenty of others to keep in mind but I don't have time to include them all here. To read more tips, visit his site by clicking here: IMB Blog.

There is still a lot for me to learn about blogging.