My Government Spent $800,000 And All I Got Was This Stupid Shirt

Wednesday Waste | November 6, 2013

Everybody loves swag.


But one division of the U.S. Marshals Service may love it a little too much. An inspector general’s report that found the Investigative Operations Division of the Marshals spent almost $800,000 on swag over the course of six years.


In 2010 the cost amounted to $1,000 per employee.


According to POLITICO, that’s when the inspector general’s (IG) investigation started. A 2010 anonymous letter highlighted overspending on swag, which included “400-500 silk ties and 200 hand-embroidered pillows.”


How much could they possibly have spent on swag? Here are just a few examples from the report, highlighted by POLITICO:


  • $155,081 on challenge coins
  • $90,958 on drinkware
  • $11,338 on custom branded ties and silk scarves
  • $16,084 on custom blankets


The real problem here is that, at the time, these expenditures didn’t violate and specific policies. However, as POLITICO points out:


“In 2011, President Barack Obama signed an executive order prohibiting government agencies from spending taxpayer funds on swag, and earlier that year the attorney general urged Justice Department divisions to reduce spending to mission-essential needs, prompting the Marshals Service to issue new policies on promotional items.”




Regardless, the IG still recommended the agency needed to further update its policies and not allow swag “as rewards to employees or to foster goodwill with other agencies.”


But how can the federal government prevent this type of waste before it happens? Public Notice and other organizations sent a letter to Congress in support of the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act (DATA Act). The DATA Act would create government-wide data standards for tracking and reporting spending, making it easier to prevent this sort of waste.


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