Even though President Obama and his entourage spent less than 13 hours on the ground in South Africa while attending Nelson Mandela’s funeral, documents released Friday revealed that the State Department budgeted over $11 million for ground transportation and hotels for the trip.
The “Justification and Approval” documents estimated the cost of ground transportation
at $8,286,194.74 tops – not including Air Force One, the Beast (the president’s limo) or air travel by other members of the delegation. Two contracts covered lodging, according to the The Weekly Standard, which reported:
One for $2,042,850 for an estimated “3,240 lodging room nights” and another for $1,190,573 for an estimated “2,490 lodging room nights” stretching from December 6, 2013 to January 20, 2014.
It is unclear from the documents if the lodging and transportation contracts covered just the president and his support staff, or if it included George W. Bush, Bill and Hillary Clinton, and other current and former government officials. The transportation contract included passenger vehicles, SUVs, vans, buses, pickup trucks, box trucks, and “larger capacity vehicles.”
The contracts were not open to competitive bidding due to security concerns and the short notice provided of funeral details, which is standard procedure, according to the Weekly Standard. The State Department did not offer a breakdown as to how much of the budgeted amount was actually spent.
The Weekly Standard contacted the State Department for an explanation, but after being referred to the White House press office, it received no response.
The Daily Mail had this to say about the U.S. delegation:
When President and Mrs. Obama traveled to South Africa for the Mandela memorial this month, they traveled with administration officials, dignitaries, Secret Service details, a U.S. Air Force contingent and dozens of journalists:
- Former President George W. Bush
- Former first lady Laura Bush
- Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
- Former President Bill Clinton
- Former first daughter Chelsea Clinton
- Former President Jimmy Carter
- National Security Advisor Susan Rice
- Attorney General Eric Holder
- White House Press Secretary Jay Carney
- Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes
- Senior Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett
- First lady’s chief of staff Tina Tchen
The Clintons returned on their own after Air Force One departed for Washington; media organizations pay for their correspondents’ travel expenses.
Twenty-three members of Congress also attended. While they traveled on a separate plane, their expenses on the ground were reportedly covered by the State Department.
An administration official told the Daily Mail it was “highly unlikely that anyone will be commenting about the president’s travel arrangements, considering all the security precautions involved.”
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