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Error found in 'Muffingate' report on DOJ conference waste

Food and beverage catering at department conferences is frequently excessive -- and wasteful. So concluded a DOJ Inspector General's report released in September.

Food and beverage catering at department conferences is frequently excessive and wasteful.

So concluded a DOJ Inspector General's report released in September. Most egregious among the list of overpriced fare was a finding that at one conference – held in Washington at the Capital Hilton – 250 muffins were served to conference-goers at the wildly inflated cost of $16 each.

The only problem with report was that it was totally wrong, at least about the cost of the muffins.

"After further review of the newly provided documentation and information, and after discussions with the Capital Hilton and the Department," the DOJ IG wrote in a newly released revision of the report, "We determined that our initial conclusions concerning the itemized costs of refreshments at the EOIR conference were incorrect and that the department did not pay $16 per muffin."

Indeed, Hilton Worldwide's rebuttal that the "the contracted breakfast included fresh fruit, coffee, juice, muffins, tax and gratuity for an inclusive price of $16 per person" – in other words, $16 was the price of the entire breakfast in question – turned out to be true.

The September report set off a media firestorm of stories slamming alleged government waste and purportedly spoiled federal employees.

Still the revised IG report points out that despite the correction, the investigation was initiated to address a serious problem. Overall DOJ conference costs doubled over the four years fiscal 2005 to fiscal 2009, rising to over $73 million per year expended on over 1,800 conferences. Furthermore, many instances of overpriced food items remain, including one of Swedish meatballs tagged at $5 a piece. So ... Meatballgate?

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