Mr. Coburn: "I wanted to spend a few minutes talking about the uproar that is occurring over the GSA. Conference waste that has been in the news of late. But my criticisms are not mainly directed towards the GSA. Over three years ago I started doing oversight on conferences by government agencies. Today I have an amendment that won't be allowed to be considered that will hold the agencies accountable in terms of their conferences.
Through the years I put out five reports on wasteful conference spending from the department of justice where it spent $380 million over a five-year period on conferences, to the department of agriculture, to in terms of sending thousands of people to one conference at a time. All of it went unheeded, with members of the senate and the house aghast at the waste that has been spent in terms of the GSA. conference out west.
Had we been doing our job and the multiple amendments that I've offered over the last six years to control conference spending which have been rejected in party-line votes to try to bring some semblance of reasonableness and control to conference spending by the various federal government agencies. So we have this problem with the today, but not because of the GSA. Because of ourselves. Because we refused to do the hard work of passing requirements that hold federal agencies accountable.
My hope would be that we would in one small step accept an amendment on the postal bill that would allow us to start holding the agencies accountable. It makes for great press and great tv when we stand aghast at what is obviously wasteful spending by an agency. But that accomplishes nothing other than advance the political careers of my colleagues.
What accomplishes something is real teeth, real legislation that holds the agencies accountable. So it would be my hope that we could have a vote. I don't even think it would take a vote. I think we could get it accepted by unanimous consent that would force the agencies to now come into compliance both in terms of transparency and accountability on how they spend their money.
Every federal government agency today has the capability for doing teleconferencing. We don't have to send 1,000 people at $2,000 a piece to a conference to accomplish education and training. We all have it in our offices.
So I would invite the American constituency to look at my website Coburn.senate.gov and look at the reports we put out over wasteful conference and spending over the last three to five years and ask yourself a why didn't conference and ask yourself why didn't congress act on it? Now we claim we're insulted at the waste when we had five different opportunities on amendment votes to do something about it. We rejected it.
We've seen oversight reports that are fully documented, that shows the waste. And yet, we haven't done anything. If you're upset with the waste conference, who you need to be upset with is senate who have rejected time and again the ability to hold agencies accountable on their conference spending. It would be my hope that in a bipartisan manner we can address this issue not just for GSA.
But for every government agency so that now we see transparency. Now we see accountability in how the American, hardworking American taxpayer dollars are spent, not wasted, and now that when -- know that when they spend money on a conference, it's going to be out there, everybody's going to see it, and they're going to have to justify not only the expenditure but the reason why we're sending people to vacation spots when we could be doing it through teleconferencing and bringing needed updates to federal employees in a much more efficient and more effective way."
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