- The Washington Times - Friday, October 28, 2011

The Justice Department’s Office of Inspector General might be eating a little, well, muffin today, having to admit in a report Friday that when it criticized the department for “extravagant and wasteful” spending on food, beverages and event planning for law enforcement conferences, including paying $16 each for muffins, it made a mistake.

“After publication of the report, we received additional documents and information concerning the food and beverage costs … After further review of the newly provided documentation and information, and after discussions with the Capital Hilton and the department, we determined that our initial conclusions concerning the itemized costs of refreshments at the conference were incorrect and that the department did not pay $16 per muffin,” the Inspector General’s Office said in a statement.

“We have therefore revised the report based on these additional documents and deleted references to any incorrect costs. We regret the error in our original report.”

The report was an instant media sensation, capturing front page headlines in a number of newspapers and making the rounds on a variety of television shows — all concerned about the government paying $16 for a muffin.

The original report examined event planning and food and beverage costs at 10 Justice Department conferences between October 2007 and September 2009, and contained a discussion of costs for food and beverages purchased for an Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) conference at the Capital Hilton in Washington, D.C., in August 2009.

Among other things, the report concluded that the EOIR had spent $4,200 for 250 muffins, or $16 per muffin, a finding that brought significant negative publicity to the department and the Capital Hilton.

Despite the error, the Inspector General’s Office said it hoped that its “correction for the record” for the one conference among the 10 it reviewed “does not detract from the more significant conclusion in our report: Government conference expenditures must be managed carefully, and the department can do more to ensure that taxpayer dollars are spent wisely and accounted for properly.”

One figure, however, remains a mystery. The new, revised and updated report does not exactly say how much those muffins did cost.

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