Watchdog barks about admission charge to FAR conference

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The government should not be charging $105 per person for the Federal Acquisition Regulation/Defense FAR Supplement Review, scheduled for Oct. 24 at an Arlington, Va., hotel, according to watchdog group Project on Government Oversight (POGO).

In a letter sent earlier this week to attorneys at the Office of Management and Budget, the General Services Administration and NASA -- which together constitute the Federal Acquisition Regulation Council -- and the Defense Department, POGO Executive Director Danielle Brian criticized the admission charge. Legally, a public meeting of government officials should be open at no charge, she wrote.

Because the event is described as allowing the public to learn about and comment on regulatory changes, and government officials are making the presentations, POGO believes it is "highly questionable" to charge for admission, Brian wrote.

"One might issue the imposition of a substantial registration fee is designed to limit public participation," she wrote.

Anticipating the potential response that the event is an educational program and not a public meeting, Brian challenged it on the basis that the agenda consists exclusively of government employees speaking about proposed regulatory changes.

CorpComm, a Virginia-based communications firm that specializes in government events, is handling the event registration and management. However, Brian noted in her letter, the event's Web site states that it is being presented by the Defense Acquisition Regulations System and the Office of the Director, Defense Procurement and Acquisition Policy.

"The Web site directs questions about the program to a government e-mail address and a government phone number, leaving little doubt as to the nature of this public meeting," she wrote.

A response from the four agencies to which the letter sent was not immediately available.

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