I liked this quote
a raucous, extravagant, arrogant, self-congratulatory event
That’s pretty funny. That’s a typical attitude for State bureaucrats. They think that they’re geniuses doing a great job, when they’re leeching off productive taxpayers.
The Daily Show was ridiculing the “$4 shrimp” part of the scandal. That’s one of the amusing bits of government accounting. The contractor does funny billing. They undercharge in one area, but then overcharge in another.
Another trick is kickbacks, alleged in the second link. X picks Y to organize the conference at a high price, and Y kicks back money to X. It can be a direct kickback. It can be an indirect kickback, such as “I’ll hire your brother-in-law or other friend.”
At one of my jobs, they had one of those “teambuilding” conferences. It was a stupid waste of time.
The “point” of the conference was not to help the government agency do its job better. It was a huge pork project for the conference organizers.