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Letter


NTU Writes in Support of H.R.4454, the ACCOUNT Act.

May 24, 2012


The Honorable Charles J. Fleischmann
United States House of Representatives
511 Cannon House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515

                             

Dear Representative Fleischmann:

On behalf of the 362,000 members of the National Taxpayers Union (NTU), I write in support of H.R.4454, your “Agency Conferences and Conventions Operating Under Necessary Transparency Act” (ACCOUNT Act). The ACCOUNT Act is a good first step toward providing much-needed transparency and accountability on government-sponsored conferences through common sense reforms.

Recent revelations regarding the lavish conferences and parties thrown by the General Services Administration (GSA), an agency that states part of its mission is to develop “government-wide cost-minimizing policies,” have brought attention to some out-of-control spending habits of unaccountable officials. Though taxpayers have been shocked and outraged at the $800,000 tab of the 2010 Las Vegas bash and thousands of dollars spent on private parties, this is not a new problem unique to GSA. Between 2000 and 2006, the federal government spent at least $2 billion on conferences with little disclosure or strict oversight.

The ACCOUNT Act requires that any conference costing more than $25,000 be personally approved in writing by the head of the agency as necessary to its mission and goals. All conference details are to be published on the agency’s website within 30 days after the end of the conference including a summary of the purpose, the total coast, and the cost per employee attending. Also, each agency will submit an annual report on conference activities to the relevant Congressional Committee. Together, these new accountability tools will shed much-needed sunlight on the federal conference planning process.

Along with the ACCOUNT Act’s additional transparency and public accountability standards, measures to cut  spending and reduce the size and scope of government are also needed to ensure that taxpayer dollars are used wisely. The millions of taxpayers who have foregone vacations and other amenities as they struggle to make ends meet deserve better than a federal government that wastes money on extravagant conferences.

When faced with growing deficits and a difficult economy, we need to increase accountability at every level of government. H.R. 4454 is a good place to start. NTU is pleased to endorse the ACCOUNT Act, and we urge all Representatives to join you by co-sponsoring it.

Sincerely,                                                               

Nan Swift
Federal Affairs Manager