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Watchdogs Take Back Claim About $16 Muffins

Federal watchdogs now concede they made a mistake when they criticized the Justice Department for paying $16 each for muffins at a conference. But they also say Justice still needs to be careful about how it spends taxpayer money.

The September report by the Inspector General of the Justice Department that raised the specter of $16 muffins became the stuff of late night talk shows and humor websites. It was followed, though, by word from the hotel that hosted the event that the charge covered "fresh fruit, coffee, juice, muffins, tax and gratuity, for an inclusive price of $16 per person."

Now the watchdogs say they were wrong for calling out the department for spending too much on muffins. "We regret the error in our original report," auditors say (a copy of the revised report is posted below).

But the auditors are standing behind their key point: that Justice officials should pay more attention to how much is spent at professional conferences and that they should take care to make sure taxpayers' money isn't wasted.

Auditors haven't revised some other findings, including: Sodas that cost $5.57 each at one event; snacks of "Cracker Jacks, popcorn, and candy bars at a single break that cost $32 per person," and 8-ounce cups of coffee that came to $8.24 each. The expenditures came at 10 conferences hosted in 2008 and 2009 at which a total of $4.4 million was spent.

Justice officials have said they were already taking action before the original report was released. Deputy Attorney General Jim Cole has said conference costs are way down this year.

Click on "Beverage Costs Report" to read the revised review.

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Carrie Johnson is a justice correspondent for the Washington Desk.
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