What does a $16 dollar muffin taste like at the Department of Justice?

Sometimes stories write themselves. With the recent news that catering companies were premium pricing brunch fare such as $16 muffins and $7 hors d’oeuvres, I’m slightly concerned as a taxpayer that my funds were so poorly used. Good work by the OIG. Yet, as a lover of food, I’m more curious about what those muffins tasted like. Are we talking about “whoa-verhead peach cobbler” or “rollin’ in the dough blueberry” or even cash-em-in cinnamon crunch?”

While I assume that you, as a responsible citizen, did not partake in the muffin eating, what do you think those muffins tasted like?

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Amazing muffins…

Although the story of $16 muffins is kind of like the $600 hammer. While technically true, they are often hiding costs in those charges and that’s why it’s high. A senior leader once explained to me the real $600 story and it honestly wasn’t as bad as they made it out to be in the news.

So $16 muffins is also part of paying for the staff time/waiters/etc. And also gov’t often pays more because of the high barriers to doing business – it can take a lot more staff time to write proposals, get on the right contract vehicles – and those costs end up being priced into the work.

Kind of like when you are paying $16 a drink at W Hotel, you aren’t paying just for the liquor but the fancy furnishings, the cost of the building, lighting, and staff

Not saying a $16 muffin is right…and not saying gov’t didnt overpay (a $7 muffin may have been more realistic)

Julie Chase

Thanks for posting Mike, I found your blog buried in the View All of GovLoop. Reaction to this has been “outrage” on many other gov forums. I am outraged, as I attend bring your own lunch training sessions. With all this talk of technology, why are gov employees travelling so much? Ever hear of video conferencing? This is an issue. You don’t have to attend conferences at the fanciest hotel in a large city. Why? This ticks off the taxpayers, big time. I know on GovLoop they are addicted to conferences……I think maybe that why this story is on the “down low”. With all the talk of gov shutdowns, and pinching pennies at gov agencies and the rotten economy, you would think of all people, civil servants would be more prudent in their spending. Where I work, the “speakers-guests-instructors” come to “us”, we dont’ go to them. A big cost savings right there. No lunches, no hor’s dourves, no coffee. We do have a vending machines in the Training Dept Bldg. lobby, help yourself. We break for lunch, you can go to any number of restaurants on the installation, or bring your own and enjoy the sunshine at a picnic table. Look how much was saved, just by saying that. You want to talk “INNOVATION”??? That, my dear GovLoopers is an “innovative” way not only to save money, but to keep the taxpayers happy. Somebody in the DOJ needs to be sitting in the time out chair.

Carol Davison

Thank your allowing me to blog on govloop.com. This position has prepared me to become the Chief Muffin Man (CMM) at the Department of Justice….

I hope that themuffins tasted like sawdust and dropped like rocks into their tummies. This sounds like fraud, waste and abuse to me. In a time when so many Americans are out of work MuffinGate shames DOJ and all Feds unless we condem before anyone else does.

I’m with Julie. Webevents are it, or hire the trainer to come to you and bring your own expletive deleted snack. I saved 40% of my training budget by doing so. Next week I personally am training 234 employees nationwide by webinar.

On the other hand, “$600 hammers” are not as outrageous as they seem. The Navy and presumably a few other organizations need equipment that is fire resistant, fits in old, little spaces and doesn’t emit toxic fumes when it burns on its ships to serve and protect sailers. Since we discovered these overpayments, Congress passed the Defense Acquisition Improvement Act where we train employees to save money in building aircraft carriers, tanks, missiles, etc. The employees I sent to training say it cost $4,000 but as a result of it they saved $400,000.

Susan Thomas

DOJ’s duty was to leverage technology and conduct the event at the lowest possible and practicable cost. As Julie and Carol pointed out, the speaker, trainer, etc. could have come to DOJ. Substantial funds could have been saved and could have been used for training courses for employees.

Micheal Mullen

I think that Susan brings up an interesting point. Are there any directives or rules on meal caps for meetings? Seems like there would (or should) be.

Carol is making me reconsider my employment choices… Micheal Mullen, Chief Muffin Officer is the type of title you not only own, you eat.

Re: Webinars, I do think that certain things are more easily done via webinar. Yet, I do enjoy going to events, expos and the likes for networking, finding potential resources, and often just meeting like-minded professionals. But there does need to be some thinking about when to send and when to web a meeting. Hmm… I feel a new post coming on…

Julie’s suggestion for a low-carb, low-cost meeting structure would be an interesting initiative as I often don’t eat the catered food that’s provided. Or the alternative would be to buy food for 1/4 of the attendees and see what happens. And while I have been to several brown bag meetings, I avoid them since they often occur during the only break I have in the day.

Russell Maltempo

I bet they tasted like money. Delicious, buttery, tax-payer money.

This is where the government should make a blanket rule that the cost of catering an event should be equivalent to what each person would get for themselves with their own money. Example: Normally, for lunch I get salad from a salad bar at $7/lb. I eat at most 1 lb of food and a diet soda. So a catered lunch should come out to about $10/person.

For breakfast, I can get a muffin and coffee for $5 at Starbucks.

I think that the rule should be the following: Any hotel or conference center that requires internal catering must provide a bid for an event. The government retains the right to request an outside bid for the same services (ooh look, competitive bidding!). Any hotel or conference center that refuses to allow competitive bidding will no longer be permitted to host any government function or event. For all agencies.

That sounds quite like a market capitalist thing to do.