1Jnited States General Accounting Office Washington, D.C. 20548 General Government Division , I B-237474 March 9, 1990 The Honorable David H. Pryor Chairman, Subcommittee on Federal Services, Post Office and Civil Service United States Senate Dear Mr. Chairman: On May 5, 1989, you asked us to look into the scheduling of a Postal Service Traffic Managers meeting in Naples, Florida. You also asked for a list of other similar Postal Service meetings during fiscal year 1989 and their total costs. We reviewed four such meetings, in addition to the one in Naples, Florida. These meetings were held in Denver, Colorado; Wailea, Island of Maui, Hawaii; Scottsdale, Arizona; and Marina Del Rey, California. In a March 7, 1990, briefing of the Subcommittee on our results, your representative asked that we transmit the charts used at the briefing to you in a fact sheet format. This letter summarizes the information we collected and is supplemented by an appendix that contains further details. SUMMARY For fiscal year 1989, about $6.2 million was charged to financial account 56605, an account for meetings and conferences. This account does not, however, include travel expenses incurred for meetings and conferences. Travel cost is charged to another account that accumulates all travel expenses other than travel related to training. Thus, there is not a single account in which all costs associated with a meeting or conference can be identified. For example, the five conferences we reviewed cost $450,930. About 53 percent or $239,625 was charged to account 56605. Most of the remaining costs were charged to the travel account. For the five conferences we reviewed, the cost per day for each person ranged from $212 in Denver to $369 in Scottsdale. Lodging costs ranged from $63 per night in Denver to $98 in Scottsdale and Hawaii. Some combination of meals was provided by the Postal Service at all five conferences with a wide variance in costs, especially in the cost of dinners provided. The cost of dinners paid for by the Service ranged from about $22 at Naples to $99 at Scottsdale. B-237474 Food and alcoholic/non-alcoholic beverage costs at the Scottsdale conference were higher than at the other conferences, which contributed to the hiqher cost per day of $369. Postal Service per diem subsistence allowances, similar to other federal entities, are paid in quarter-day increments at $8.25 for defined high-cost areas and $7.00 for average-cost areas. The three meals provided attendees at the Scottsdale conference, and paid for by the Postal Service, on October 25-26, 1989, cost $109 and $137 per person, respectively, substantially exceeding the total allowable subsistence per diem. APPROACH To make total cost determinations, we reviewed the following five conferences. --Naples, Florida, Office of Transportation and International Services Managers Conference, January 23 to 26, 1989. --Wailea, Island of Maui, Hawaii, Western Region Division Managers Conference, January 4 to 6, 1989. --Denver, Colorado, National Controller's Conference, October 18 to 21, 1988. --Scottsdale, Arizona, Western Region Postal Career Executive Service Conference, October 24 to 27, 1988. --Marina Del Rey (Los Angeles area), California, Western Region Marketing and Communications Merchandise and Promotions meeting, June 13 to 15, 1989. To accumulate total cost, we reviewed each participant's travel voucher filed at the San Mateo, California Postal Data Center. We also reviewed copies of hotel invoices and related purchase orders to identify the costs directly billed to the Postal Service. In the few cases where documentation showed that specific individuals attended the conference but travel vouchers could not be found at the Postal Data Center, we estimated travel costs based on the comparable cost incurred by other travelers from the same or nearby area. We did not evaluate the need for the conferences, whether relevant postal business was conducted, or whether all participants needed to be at the conference. At Postal Service Headquarters we obtained the amount charged to the conferences and meeting account (56605) during fiscal year 1989, and inquired about procedures followed in selecting conference sites. The cost data, as summarized in the appendix, Y 2 B-237474 was discussed with the Assistant Postmaster General, Department of the Controller. He told us the incurred expenses would be reviewed and that action would be taken to recover any amounts improperly charged. As arranged with the Subcommittee, unless you publicly announce the contents of this fact sheet earlier, we plan no further distribution until 30 days from the date of this letter. At that time, we will send copies to the Postmaster General, the House Committee on Post Office and Civil Service, and other interested parties. We will also make copies available to others upon request. If you have any questions, please call me on 275-8676, or Assistant Director Willis Elmore on 268-4950. He, assignment manager Al Turman, and evaluator-in-charge Jim Mosso of our San Francisco Regional Office were major contributors to this fact sheet. Sincerely yours, 4 L. Nye Stevens Director, Government Business Operations Issues 3 APPENDIX APPENDIX REVIEW OF POSTAL MEETINGS AND CONFERENCES Location : Naples, Florida Sponsor : Headquarters, Mail Processing Department, Office of Transportation and International Services, Washington, D.C. Purpose : Quarterly Transportation Managers Conference Dates : January 23 to 26, 1989 Attendees : Headquarters, various transportation officials 21 Regions, various transportation officials 13 Transportation Management Section Center - Managers 22 - Dispatch and Routing Supervisors 22 - Others 4 St. Louis Postal Data Center 4 Engineering Support Center statistician - 1 Total 87 Principal costs : Employee per diem and miscellaneous travel expenses $12,886 Air fare 34,958 Hotel -Lodging 26,173 -Food 3,452 Rental cars 5,457 All other costs (e.g. audio/visual, consultants, etc.) 897 Total conference cost $83,823 Average daily cost per person [(total cost/qtrs) X 41 $226 (Includes total quarters charged by participants and/or estimated by GAO; 1,486 quarters into total costs times 4 quarters per day) 4 " APPENDIX APPENDIX Daily hotel lodging rate: $82 Average cost of provided meals : (Number of people participating in meals divided into total cost of meals billed by the hotel) Date Breakfast Lunch Dinner i?iii-24 $3.54 Continental none none Jan 25 $3.54 Continental none $21.83 Jan 26 $3.54 Continent&l none none Twenty employees did not reduce their per diem by the required $12 for the dinner for a total of $240, and, available records showed non-employees paid for their own meals. 5 1 APPENDIX APPENDIX Location : Denver, Colorado / Sponsor : Headquarters, Finance Group, Washington, D.C. / Purpose : National Controllers Meeting Dates : October 18 to 21, 1988 Attendees : Headquarters, Senior Officers 2 Headquarters, Finance Group 27 Regions 27 Field Division Controllers 72 Inspectors 5 Total 133 Principal costs : Employee per diem and miscellaneous travel expenses $14,158 Air fare 48,091 Hotel -Lodging 28,257 -Food 14,066 -Beverages including alcoholic (1 reception, 1,424 2 dinners) Rental cars 651 All other costs (e.g. audio/visual, consultants, etc. 760 Total conference cost 07,407 Average daily cost per person [(total cost/qtrs) X 41 $212 (Same explanation as Naples, FL - 2,029 quarters) Daily 'hotel lodging rate $63 Specific cost items included in above expenses : Spouses and guests ($10 per night hotel surcharge) $140 Meals provided but not deducted from per diem $216 Average cost of provided meals : (Same explanation as Naples, FL) Date Breakfast Lunch Dinner Ott 18 none '$11,99 $33.48 act 19 none $11.99 $30.41 Ott 20 none $12.29 none 6 APPENDIX APPENDIX Location: Wailea, Island of Maui, Hawaii ?Ponsor : Headquarters, Western Region, San Bruno, California Purpose : Western Region Division General Managers Meeting Dates : January 4 to 6, 1989 ttendees : Western Region Directors 6 Field Division Managers 18 I Honolulu Division Secretary 1 / Total 25 4rincipal costs : Employee per diem and miscellaneous travel expenses $ 2,906 Air fare 11,676 Hotel -Lodging 6,990 -Food 5,503 -Beverages including alcoholic (1 dinner) 527 Rental cars 1,030 All other costs (e.g. audio/visual, consultants, etc.) 720 Total conference cost $29,352 Average daily cost per person [(total cost/qtrs) x 41 $322 i(Same explanation as Naples, FL - 365 quarters) Daily hotel lodging rate $98 Specific cost items included in above expenses : Spouses and guests (dinner, luau, porterage) $1,743 Meals provided but not deducted from per diem $18 Average cost of provided meals : (Same explanation as Naples, FL) Date Breakfast Lunch Dinner Jan 4 none none $58.67 Jan 5 $18.27 Continental $14.18 $38.00 Jan 6 $13.94 $23.96 none 7 APPENDIX APPENDIX Location: Scottsdale (near Phoenix), Arizona Sponsor : Headquarters, Western Region, San Bruno, California Purpose : Western Region Postal Career Executive Service Annual Conference Dates : October 24 to 27, 1988 Attendees : Postmaster General, Western Region Postmaster General, Postal Career Executive Service 161 USPS employee presenters & administrative support 22 Postal union and association representatives 12 Consultants, speaker, business representative Total Principal costs : Employee per diem and miscellaneous travel expenses $16,530 Air fare 44,444 Hotel -Lodging 53,217 -Food 61,456 -Beverages including alcoholic (3 pre-dinner 12,718 receptions) Rental cars 656 All other costs(e.g. audio/visual, consultants, etc.) 28,736 Total conference cost $217,757 Average daily cost per person [(total cost/qtrs) X 41 $369 (Same explanation as Naples, FL - 2,359 quarters) Daily hotel lodging rate $98 Specific cost items included in above expenses : Spouses and guests (see below) $26,822 Meals provided but not deducted from per diem $186 8 APPENDIX APPENDIX Average cost of provided meals : (Same explanation as Naples, FL) Date Breakfast Lunch Dinner Oct24 none none $51.98 Hors ii'oeuvres Ott 25 $10.00 Continental $23.72 $75.82 Ott 26 $10.00 Continental $28.09 $99.19 Ott 27 $17.48 none none Note: All 3 dinners include pre-dinner reception costs. Costs of Spouses and Guests attending : number cost Spouses of employees from 3 field divisions who were competing for the best division award. (These were invited by the Western 23 Reqion Postmaster General.) --transportation $8,375 --dinners and receptions 5,041 Spouses accompanying other postal employees and 1 consultant 48 --dinners and receptions 9,964 Postal union and association representatives, consultants, speaker, business representatives 16 --breakfast, lunch, dinner, reception 1,574 --lodging, est 1,868 Total $26,822 9 ~APPENDIX APPENDIX ,Location: Marina de1 Rey, California (near Los Angeles) iSponsor : Western Region, Marketing and Communications Division, San Bruno, California ipurpose : Merchandise and promotions meeting with advertising agency (Dates : June 13 to 15, 1989 Attendees : USPS mainly merchandising, promotions, & sales 19 advertising agency - 4 Total 23 /Principal costs : Employee per diem and miscellaneous travel expenses $ 1,917 Air fare 2,679 Hotel -Lodging 4,928 -Food 2,715 Rental cars All other costs (e.g. audio/visual, consultants, etc.) 35: Total conference cost $12,592 iAverage daily cost per person [(total cost/qtrs) X 41 $218 / (Same explanation as Naples, FL - 231 quarters) IDaily hotel lodging rate $77 /Specific costs included with above expenses : Undeducted meals from per diem $56 Average cost of provided meals : (Same explanation as Naples, FL) Date Breakfast Lunch Dinner Jun 13 $9.31 Continental $22.74 Jun 14 $7.61 Continental $16.89 Jun 15 $7.61 Continental none All breakfasts presumed to be Continental. 10 APk'ENDIX APPENDIX USPS COSTS FOR MEETINGS AND CONFERENCES Total costs for FY 1989 in account 56605 for meetings and conferences = $6,214,212 Accounting system: The Postal Service accounting system provides a tinique account (Acct. 56605) to accumulate the cost of meetings anfl conferences. However, travel associated with meetings and conferences is charged to another unique account (Acct. 51 011, which accumulates all travel other than travel ce ated to training. Accordingly, there is not a single ac ount for which all costs associated with a meeting or co I ference can be identified, as demonstrated below. ~ Accounting codes: The costs of the 5 conferences were charged to these accounts, which, except for account 56605, include charges unrelated to meetings and conferences: 56605 - Other operating expenses - Miscellaneous - meetings and conferences (hotel invoices primarily) $ 239,625 51401 - Personnel - travel - other than training (required account for travel voucher expenses) 195,615 52321 - Contractual services, other than equipment repairs and maintenance; outside consulting and professional service fees 6,000 52363 - Training - outside instruction - instructors and fees 5,000 51413 - Personnel - travel - training - USPS 2,826 5 other codes 1,864 -------es Total $450,930 11 APPENDIX APPENDIX Sponsor's budget code : We found that many participants charge expenses to their home unit, instead of to the required budget code of the meeting or conference sponsor. For example, at the Scottsdale conference, costs were charged to the budget codes of : , ! Finance (sponsor) $ 145,137 Planning 38,895 Western Regional Postmaster General 10,532 29 other budget codes 20,460 unknown (missing vouchers) GAO est 2,353 Per Diem Charges Postal Service per diem regulations are basically the same as other government agencies except they pay the cost of lodging without limitations. The Postal Service pays per diem for official travel based on four 6-hour quarters in a day. The rates are Defined high cost area $8.25 per qtr. Average cost area $7.00 per qtr. Allowable per diem costs are substantially exceeded when the Postal Service sponsor provides meals. For example, in Scottsdale, 3 meals on October 25 cost $109 per person while 3 meals on October 26 cost $137 per person. (225086) * 12 -,,, ,,,,,,“., .,,,.,._I .,.-,.,.- ._.- .,-.,.- .-..- I.,...._ ,,_,, ,,,,..... .._.. - 1i.S. (~t~r~t~r;tl Atxwor~li~~g Offiw Post. 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Postal Service: Cost of Meetings and Conferences
Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1990-03-09.
Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)