Lawmakers to OMB: We still want some of those reports you cut

After the Office of Management and Budget's move to reduce agency burden by eliminating or amending scores of its policies, Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., is calling for some to remain.

Cummings — ranking member on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee — and Rep. Matt Cartwright, D-Pa., sent a letter to OMB Director Mick Mulvaney on June 21 requesting that he reconsider amending two policies designed to regulate agency spending crafted in the wake of the 2010 General Services Administration spending scandal.

Related: Read the letter

"We are writing to ask you to reconsider a recent directive from your office that could eliminate several 'good government' approval and reporting requirements that were adopted in response to our committee's bipartisan oversight efforts to curb wasteful spending on agency conferences," the letter said. 

"These measures were implemented to protect the American taxpayers, and we urge you to keep them in place."

The two policies Cummings and Cartwright cite — M-12-12 and M-17-08 — direct agencies to reduce their costs for official travel and attendance at conferences by requiring senior level approval of conference attendance and capped spending limits on conferences.

Mulvaney said on June 15 that OMB proposed amending the two policies to take a more risk-based approach toward agency reporting as part of a massive reshaping of the office's rules called M-17-26.

"The current process to review, approve and publicly report on federally-hosted conferences have become incredibly burdensome for agencies," the policy said.

"Management of the conference approval process must instead evolve a more risk-based approach in which agencies apply the enterprise risk management and internal control practices set forth in OMB Circular A-123 to ensure that Federal funds are spent appropriately."

Specifically, OMB proposes repealing two sections of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, which requires agencies to tabulate conference attendance cost separately from their appropriations and to submit annual reports to their inspectors general detailing the spending procedures for conferences costing more than $100,000 and quarterly reports for conferences costing more than $20,000.

But Cummings and Cartwright said that the policies safeguard against wasteful spending by agencies.

Both rules were in response to a scandal centering on lavish spending by GSA officials attending conferences in 2010. The spending was revealed in a 2012 inspector general’s report and lead to the resignation of Administrator Martha Johnson, the firing of two senior leaders and the three-month imprisonment of a regional commissioner for making false claims.

Cummings and Cartwright called on Mulvaney to work with the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee to retain the policies as a way to craft reporting requirements.

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