The Department of Labor’s Office of Public Affairs (OPA) spent more than $600,000 on elevator posters, according to documents obtained by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) says the posters are just one example of “wasteful spending and mismanagement” in the office.
In a letter sent to Labor Secretary Thomas Perez Monday, Issa slams Labor’s OPA for “frivolously” spending money on public relations contests, mascots and book clubs.
Issa accuses OPA of violating President Barack Obama’s executive order to promote efficient spending. Obama signed the order in November 2011, asking agencies to stop using appropriations for items unrelated to their missions.
In response to Issa’s letter, Labor defends its spending.
“We are responsible stewards of public funds,” a DoL spokesperson told Federal News Radio Wednesday.
According to the letter, Labor’s OPA spent nearly $25,000 on entry fees for public relations contests between fiscal 2010 and 2014. The department itself submitted 168 entries to the contests and paid more than $2,300 per application.
Documents obtained by the committee reveal that DoL used part of its budget to hire the Washington Nationals mascot for an agency event. It also spent more than $100,000 to promote a book club.
These instances “raise serious questions about the lack of internal agency spending controls in a time of considerable budget constraints,” Issa wrote in the letter.
“Our internal communications efforts make a difference in employee satisfaction, retention and most importantly, performance,” the DoL spokesperson said. “Better performance from our employees translates into better value for the public.”
Issa requests a number of documents from DoL to be submitted no later than Sept. 8.
The chairman also accuses OPA Senior Adviser Carl Fillichio of using “profane language” against whistleblowers in the office.
“Mr. Fillichio’s comments are likely to have a chilling effect on OPA employees’ willingness to report fraud, abuse and mismanagement,” Issa wrote.
The DoL spokesperson did not comment on Fillichio’s actions.