By Bernie Becker - 05/31/13 10:22 PM EDT
The House Oversight Committee is holding another hearing on the IRS — but not one dealing with the agency’s targeting of conservative groups.
The panel, led by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), will hear on Thursday from Treasury’s inspector general for tax administration about “excessive spending” at IRS conferences.
“The IRS is an agency in crisis," Issa said in a statement. "The American people expect that their tax-dollars will be used responsibly and not for financing lavish hotel suites and entertainment for government employees. The Oversight Committee will examine these egregious abuses of the public trust and an IRS culture that shuns accountability."
"While there were legitimate reasons for holding the meeting, many of the expenses associated with it were inappropriate and should not have occurred," Werfel said.
Werfel said the sort of conference that will be described in the report, which he expects to be released on Tuesday, could not happen today, and that travel and training expenses at the IRS have already dropped more than 80 percent since 2010.
Treasury Secretary Jack Lew has asked Werfel to conduct a thorough examination of the agency in his first month on the job, and the new acting commissioner made clear that the IRS's bottom line would be a hot topic for him.
"Cutting down on excessive and inappropriate travel has been a personal priority for me,” said Werfel, a former senior official at the Office of Management and Budget.
Russell George, the tax administration inspector general, has been a regular presence on Capitol Hill in recent weeks, testifying three times about his report that found the IRS improperly singled out Tea Party groups seeking tax-exempt status.
A spokesman for the inspector general declined to comment on Thursday's Oversight hearing.
Top GOP lawmakers have consistently tried to cast the IRS's treatment of conservative groups as part of a broader cultural issue at the agency, and as emblematic of an Obama administration that they say has no problems targeting enemies.
Issa and other Republicans on the panel have been critical of George’s work on the targeting case, especially after finding out that an IRS official sat in on many of the inspector general’s interviews.
The House Oversight panel has taken a particular interest in conference spending in recent years, especially following reports of a lavish conference that the General Services Administration sponsored in Las Vegas in 2010.
Issa has also pressed a range of agencies — including the Pentagon — over dozens of conferences that he’s called wasteful.
The House Ways and Means Committee is holding its second hearing on the IRS targeting on Tuesday, as Republicans look to keep up the heat on the agency.
This story was first posted at 3:07 p.m. and has been updated.