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IRS not alone in penchant for bashes

Boubacar Sanogo (top) falls into the upraised arms of his teammates as part of an exercise to build team spirit and trust.

The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform has scheduled another IRS hearing for Thursday. The topic this time? IRS spending on a big conference three years ago. But don't all government agencies throw these types of team-building shindigs? The answer is: not as much as they used to.

It appears IRS agents, for their part, know how to party. The tax collection agency footed the bill for a training video showing IRS workers learning a line dance they were to perform at a 2010 conference, in Anaheim, California.

The video went viral. Now, the IRS says, travel and training expenses have dropped more than 80 percent.

IRS: Taxpayer Funded Dancing Video

 

Jack Pitney, who teaches political science at Claremont McKenna College, says other federal agencies known for big bashes, like the General Services Administration and Pentagon, have also cut back.

“You don’t want your conference or any kind of event to become a YouTube moment," he explains.

Now, most government gatherings are done with video conferencing. But some say the big, in-person conferences are valuable for networking with industry.

“When you have less face time together between government and industry that ends up costing the government something in the long run," says Larry Allen, president of the consulting firm, Allen Federal Business Partners.

Allen says demoralized federal workers aren’t up on industry trends, so it’s harder to write contracts for things the government needs from the private sector. 

About the author

Nancy Marshall-Genzer is a senior reporter for Marketplace based in Washington, D.C. covering daily news.

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