oversight

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)

    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)




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