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Feinstein, Bennett Ask for Reviews of Senate Restaurants’ Funding

As expected, the leaders of the Senate Rules and Administration Committee have asked the Government Accountability Office and the Architect of the Capitol to undertake a top-to-bottom review of the Senate Restaurants in order to examine the causes for the growing budget deficit within the food service program.

Noting that the Senate Restaurants nearly doubled their deficit between fiscal 2005 and fiscal 2006 and that internal financial analyses show a year-to-date net operating loss of almost $1 million more than during the same period last year, Rules and Administration Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and ranking member Bob Bennett (R-Utah) sent separate letters Wednesday to acting Architect of the Capitol Stephen Ayers and Comptroller General David Walker.

Asking the GAO to update a 2002 review of the Senate Restaurants’ management and operations, the Senators noted that “it would be helpful to have an analysis of the financial condition of the [Restaurant Revolving] Fund, operational constraints, services and food quality, and staffing. Finally, we would appreciate specific recommendations for improving the long-term financial health of the Senate restaurants.”

The Senate urged Ayers, whose agency oversees the Senate Restaurants, “to thoroughly examine your internal budget, managerial practices, planning and control processes, inventory and present the Senate Rules and Administration Committee with a plan that addresses this troubling situation. We are also interested in seeing a proposal for a balanced budget that excludes appropriated dollars.”

A GAO report released last week detailed the deficit problems that exist in the Senate Restaurants. In the report, the accounting firm Clifton Gunderson found the restaurants posted a $1.02 million deficit in fiscal 2006, a big jump from fiscal 2005, when the restaurants lost $680,965.

A spokesman for the committee has said that since Feinstein took over the committee in January, staffers have been meeting repeatedly with restaurant officials to discuss ways to bring the restaurant program back into the black.

— John McArdle

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