By Susan Ferrechio
Hiring an artist to paint portraits of Bono and Michael Jordan is just one of the unique ways the Internal Revenue Service spent $49 million on employee conferences over a two year period, according to a just-disclosed audit report.
Page 12 of the 63-page report, issued Tuesday, documents $135,000 to hire speakers for a $4.1 million conference in Anaheim, Calif. The speakers fees included $17,000 for an artist to “create a unique painting that reinforces his message of unlearning the rules, breaking the boundaries and freeing the thought process to find creative solutions to challenges.”
The artist delivered two keynote speeches, lasting one-hour each, in which he created three portraits at each session.
According to S. Russell George, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration and author of the report, “These paintings consisted of the following portraits: Albert Einstein (one) Michael Jordan (one), Abraham Lincoln (one), Bono (one) and the Statue of Liberty (two).”
George also noted that the paintings were given to the employees, while three of them were auctioned off for the Combined Federal Campaign. According to the audit, they were sold for $75, $130 and $380.
The IRS paid $27,500 for another keynote speaker, again for two speeches lasting an hour each. According to the contract, the speaker planned to “share how seemingly random combinations of ideas can drive radical innovations.”
The fee included first class travel.
George noted that record keeping was shoddy for the employee conferences and the keynote fees were no exception.
“No travel receipts were obtained by the IRS for our review,” the report noted.