The Top Five Programs that Waste Taxpayer’s money

Its not your moneyEvery year the Government Accountability Office publishes a “hall of shame” list, calling out programs or agencies that are the chief offenders when it comes to waste, fraud, and abuse.

The list is sent to Congress and the progress of each offenders corrective action is tracked. If the agency corrects the issues they are removed from the list. However, there aren’t many consequences for agencies that don’t improve … except for cementing a spot on the High Risk List.

Some, like the Defense Department, have been on the list for years for such problem areas as weapons acquisitions and financial management (DOD hasn’t been successfully audited in decades). Medicare, Medicaid, and the U.S. Postal Service also are frequently on the list. This year’s list includes 32 programs, an increase from last year’s 30.

Here are the top five programs from this year’s list:

Information Technology and Acquisitions

The U.S. government spends over $80 billion a year for information technology but its track record leaves a lot to be desired.

The most notable failure is HealthCare.gov, the exchanges for Obamacare. As everyone knows the original rollout was an abysmal failure and the program’s cost has ballooned to $2 billion.

HHS also abandoned its electronic health record system. It simply didn’t work. The GAO blamed these and other failures on management and planning. The GAO said in its report:

We have previously testified that the federal government has spent billions of dollars on failed IT investments. These and other failed IT projects often suffered from a lack of disciplined and effective management, such as project planning, requirements definition, and program oversight and governance.

Veterans Affairs health care

The Department of Veterans Affairs spent much of the year in the headlines. Secretary Eric Shinseki eventually resigned or was fired. He was replaced by Robert McDonald who is now under fire for claiming that he was in the Special Forces when he was actually an officer in the 82nd Airborne.

After a year of scandal at the VA, where officials were accused of keeping secret wait lists and hiding poor treatment of veterans, it’s no surprise the $55.5 billion health care program serving more than 8.9 million veterans is considered “high risk.” GAO said it issued eight reports on the VA health system last year detailing delays, lax oversight, and mismanagement.

IRS Tax Law Enforcement

The IRS has been a regular on the list since 1990. The tax gap (the difference between taxes owed and taxes paid) is an astounding $385 billion. This year the GAO looked at the agency’s efforts to combat tax fraud. Last year, the IRS paid out $5.8 billion in fraudulent tax refunds — though it prevented another $24.2 billion from being lost to identify fraud. Budget cuts, it says, could hamper its efforts to combat this.

Security of federal information systems and cyber infrastructure

Repeated attacks on public and private information systems has become an increasing threat to national security. The government is in a constant race to keep up with hackers and protect our cyber assets.

The growing number of high-profile breaches in the private sector, such as Sony’s, as well as more security incidents involving personal information at federal agencies has further raised the risk.

Pentagon weapon systems acquisition

Another long-time regular on the list has been a resident since 1990. The report said that the DOD has continued to fall short on cost-effectiveness, schedule management, and performance expectations.

The pricey F-35 or Joint Strike Fighter, for example, estimated to cost more than $1.5 trillion, has already gone hundreds of billions over budget, is far behind schedule and has fallen short of expectations. It’s still never flown in combat.

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Shut Down the Department of Education

Here’s a post from Dan Mitchell of the Cato Institute with another suggestion of Executive Department closures: the Department of Education.

To save the nation from a future Greek-style fiscal meltdown, we should reform entitlements.

But as part of the effort to restore limited, constitutional government, we also should shut down various departments that deal with issues that shouldn’t be handled by the central government.

I’ve already identified some low-hanging fruit.

Get rid of the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Shut down the Department of Agriculture.

Eliminate the Department of Transportation.

We need to add the Department of Education to the list. And maybe even make it one of the first targets.

Increasing federal involvement and intervention, after all,is associated with more spending and more bureaucracy,but NOT better educational outcomes.

Politicians in Washington periodically try to “reform” the status quo, but rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic never works. And that’s true whether you look at the results of GOP plans, like Bush’s no-bureaucrat-left-behind scheme, or Democratic plans, like Obama’s Common Core.

The good news, as explained by the Washington Examiner, is that Congress is finally considering legislation that would reduce the federal government’s footprint.

There are some good things about this bill, which will serve as the reauthorization of former President George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind law. Importantly, the bill removes the Education Department’s ability to bludgeon states into adopting the controversial Common Core standards. The legislative language specifically forbids both direct and indirect attempts “to influence, incentivize, or coerce” states’ decisions. …The Student Success Act is therefore a step in the right direction, because it returns educational decisions to their rightful place — the state (or local) level. It is also positive in that it eliminates nearly 70 Department of Education programs, replacing them with more flexible grants to the states.

But the bad news is that the legislation doesn’t go nearly far enough. Federal involvement is a gaping wound caused by a compound fracture, while the so-called Student Success Act is a band-aid.

…as a vehicle for moving the federal government away from micromanaging schools that should fall entirely under state and local control, the bill is disappointing. …the recent explosion of federal spending and federal control in education over the last few decades has failed to produce any significant improvement in outcomes. Reading and math proficiency have hardly budged. …the federal government’s still-modest financial contribution to primary and secondary education has come with strings that give Washington an inordinate say over state education policy. …The Student Success Act…leaves federal spending on primary and secondary education at the elevated levels of the Bush era. It also fails to provide states with an opt-out.

To be sure, there’s no realistic way of making significant progress with Obama in the White House.

But the long-run battle will never be won unless reform-minded lawmakers make the principled case. Here’s the bottom line.

Education is one area where the federal government has long resisted accepting the evidence or heeding its constitutional limitations. …Republicans should be looking forward to a post-Obama opportunity to do it for real — to end federal experimentation and meddling in primary and secondary education and letting states set their own policies.

Amen.

But now let’s acknowledge that ending federal involvement and intervention should be just the first step on a long journey.

State governments are capable of wasting money and getting poor results.

Local governments also have shown that they can be similarly profligate and ineffective.

Indeed, when you add together total federal/state/local spending and then look at the actual results (whether kids are getting educated), the United States does an embarrassingly bad job.

The ultimate answer is to end the government education monopoly and shift to a system based on choice and competition.

Fortunately, we already have strong evidence that such an approach yields superior outcomes.

To be sure, school choice doesn’t automatically mean every child will be an educational success, but evidence from SwedenChile, and the Netherlands shows good results after breaking up state-run education monopolies.

P.S. Let’s close with a bit of humor showing the evolution of math lessons in government schools.

P.P.S. If you want some unintentional humor, the New York Times thinks that government education spending has been reduced.

P.P.P.S. And you’ll also be amused (and outraged and disgusted) by the truly bizarre examples of political correctness in government schools.

 

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Spending at DHS isn’t always about Homeland Security

Money in a gift boxThe definition of Homeland Security has become quite elastic over the last decade. Initially, Homeland Security spending was confined to just that: Homeland Security.

But over the years the DHS has spent money that has stretched their spending to a wide variety of programs that some would say have very little to do with Homeland Security.

In Kalamazoo, Michigan the Department of Homeland Security is providing funding for that city’s fire department. An epidemic of arson has plagued the city keeping the fire department busier than it should be in a city of 50,000 people.

But where does Homeland Security come into play? How does the department justify funding a local fire department.

This example is just the tip of the iceberg. Not only is the Department of Homeland Security guilty of spending in areas that are not strictly within their purview but most government departments have stretched their spending far beyond the legal definition of their departments.

The DHS is in the spotlight because of the current funding dispute with Congressional Republicans over Barack Obama’s executive orders on immigration.

A loss in DHS funding would ripple in towns like Saginaw that depend heavily on federal grants to support basic services. The department funds about 1,800 firefighter positions nationwide that would quickly disappear if DHS shut down.

It also provides funding for security in the New York City rail system, communications equipment in Los Angeles, bomb-sniffing dogs in Massachusetts, and hundreds of other odds and ends that DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson didn’t have space to highlight in his appeal to Congress last week for a normal new appropriation.

Any number of municipalities are begging for funding from the federal government and many are getting it. Saginaw received a $2.3 million “SAFER” grant from the Federal Emergency Management Administration, which would save 15 positions for two years.

It came from a $670-million-a-year program that Congress created in 2005 to help supplement staffing, training and equipment needs at local fire departments.

Since when are these type of grants under the Department of Homeland Security? Or are they simply another way for the federal government to enmesh themselves further into the operations of local governments?

Overall, such budgetary brinkmanship is a bigger problem for states and municipalities than it used to be. According to the Census Bureau, federal grants-in-aid have increased both in absolute terms and as a percentage of local government revenues from 1990 to 2011, the latest year for which figures are available.

 

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Forcing Unnecessary Weapons on the Pentagon

Abrams tanksThe Executive Branch is usually blamed for waste in military spending but that isn’t always the case. Most Americans don’t realize that purchasing weapons systems and keeping unnecessary bases open are often the fault of the Legislative Branch, i.e. the United States Congress.

Congressmen and women see military spending as important to their districts and therefore to their political survival. Bases in Congressional districts are big employers and important to the local economies.

Spending on weapons systems are likewise important for local economies and therefore the political survival of congressmen and women whose districts have manufacturing plants located in them.

During a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing to discuss mandatory defense spending cuts under sequestration, military officials warned of dire consequences of future automatic cuts, but stressed the Army’s surplus of tanks doesn’t imply bad spending decisions on the part of the Pentagon, reports Military.com. Instead, it points to Congress forcing unnecessary hardware on the Defense Department.

“We are still having to procure systems we don’t need,” Army Chief of Staff General Raymond Odierno said, adding that the Army spends “hundreds of millions of dollars on tanks that we simply don’t have the structure for anymore.” The Department of Defense has around 9,000 tanks between the Army and Marine Corps.

Lawmakers from both parties have devoted nearly half a billion dollars in taxpayer money over the past two years to build improved versions of the 70-ton Abrams.

Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Jonathan Greenert reiterated the claims, saying “there are too many people involved in the process [for acquiring equipment].”

“If I say ‘I need a thing’… there are a whole lot of people telling us, ‘No, this is what you really need,’” Greenert added.

The debate between Congress and the Pentagon has been going on for the past three years, with the Defense Department saying the U.S. should stop buying tanks and let defense contractors focus on foreign sales.

Congress, on the other hand, shuns Odierno’s proposals, constantly approving tank upgrades. In 2012, the Senate voted to approve $181 million for tanks, and in Dec. 2014, it approved a $120 million budget on Abram tanks. Some lawmakers argued that funding more tanks boosts the labor force and protects national interests.

So while the Pentagon is forced to purchase weapons systems that they neither want or need, they will have to cut systems and personnel that are more important due to the 2012 sequester law.

But there is hope for more efficient purchasing at the Pentagon. In January, The chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee said Wednesday he wants the U.S. Military’s service chiefs to have more power to prevent the Pentagon from buying weapons it doesn’t need.

Sen. John McCain, SASC’s new chairman in the new Republican-run Senate, said one his top priorities for this session is to ensure that the service chiefs have more input into the acquisition and procurement process.

 

 

 

 

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The Worst Way to Spend Taxpayer Money

NBC News anchor Brian Williams recently admitted that he lied about an incident in Iraq. His punishment: a six-month suspension with no pay.

In San Jose, three top-level city managers were recently shown the door after dysfunction overtook the office. Their punishment: six months pay.

Maybe we should have simply suspended them.

The anger expressed by San Jose Inside commenters regarding the city payouts is representative of the public at large. A substantial segment of the population doesn’t believe taxpayer money is being used effectively; excessive payouts simply reinforce that idea.

In any large institution, government or otherwise, there will be some waste, fraud and abuse. Most of government works well and government employees often take on extra tasks simply to ensure service is provided to the electorate. These stories are not well chronicled by the media, but they are highlighted when individuals are recognized by their jurisdictions for going above and beyond the call of duty. Awards usually consist of a plaque and picture with public officials. These workers certainly are not rewarded with a six-month vacation.

To the larger point, taxpayers don’t want to pay for nothing. The old line applies that people will pay for a hand up, but not a handout. Conservatives will rail against people who take welfare, and yet when one points to government subsidies for businesses, they will express similar opposition at a lower decibel. It’s incredible how low-income people of color, and especially single mothers, are considered a greater pestilence to our nation’s bottom line than the grinning suit with his hand out.

If government officials are truly concerned about the perception of how they handle taxpayer money, paying people to go away should violate policy—and not become the norm for doing business. We should also have more stories on how individuals in government are making a difference—and not simply those who hold public office.

Rich Robinson is an attorney and political consultant in Silicon Valley. This post appeared on http://www.sanjoseinside.com/.

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‘Such Sums As May Be Necessary’

Money down the toiletSometimes our Congress is our own worst enemy. The Washington Examiner’s Luke Rosiak recently wrote a story about how sponsors of 700 bills in Congress didn’t put price tags on their proposals.

Instead of detailing how the bill would be paid for they simply inserted the language: ‘such sums as may be necessary’ or ‘such sums as necessary’.

All 20 congressmen who most frequently used the “such sums as necessary” formulation are liberals and among the most ardent proponents of expanding the federal government.

House Republicans were advised by their leaders not to use the phrase, but some of them ignored the advice.

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, a self-proclaimed “Democratic socialist,” led the list as the sponsor of 19 such bills. His 10 Million Solar Roofs Act of 2014, for example, would require “the Department of Energy (DOE) to establish a program to provide rebates for the purchase and installation of photovoltaic systems with the goal to install 10 million systems.”

The Sanders bill provided specific instructions for what the government would need to do, and the cost of the solar panels would be known to his staff. The goal of the bill — increasing alternative energy sources — has significant public support. But Sanders didn’t include how much his proposal would cost, thus depriving his congressional colleagues and taxpayers of the means to weigh benefits versus costs.

Nowhere in the bill is there a cost figure. It simply says “there are authorized to be appropriated such sums as are necessary to carry out this Act.”

Florida Democrat Rep. Alan Grayson’s Fiscal Sanity Act for Appropriations bill is another whose cost is simply as much “as necessary.”

“It shows they aren’t serious fiscal stewards — they aren’t concerned with how much it costs, often-times. If they were, they could write in offsets saying ‘this fund over here will be decreased by the amount necessary,’” said Demian Brady, who tracks individual congressmen’s spending propensities for the National Taxpayers Union.

“It could also be a way to avoid accountability. If they did say $20 million for a gun buyback program, media and everyone would say she wants to spend $20 million. If you leave it blank, it’s a shield you can hide behind, even if they know how much it’s going to cost,” he said.

Most of the 700 bills never became law. Most were introduced by members for simply political purposes. However, many of the proposals end being in bigger Congressional bills.

When Rep. Maxine Waters wanted a “minority diabetes initiative,” the California Democrat didn’t care how much it cost, and didn’t attempt to measure it, craft a budget estimate or find a way to fund it. Instead, she asked colleagues to essentially vote for a blank check.

Pennsylvania Democratic Sen. Bob Casey’s Caregiver Corps Act of 2014 would require the Department of Health and Human Services to “contract with a nonprofit” and “[a]llows the Secretary to award grants for the operation of local Corps programs.” 

Yet there is no mention of cost anywhere. At the very end of the description of the proposed program, it says simply, “There is authorized to be appropriated to carry out this section, such sums as may be necessary.”

The majority of bills that were introduced were done by Democrats. The reason: they simply introduce more bills than Republicans. Another reason is that Republicans were warned not to introduce bills without costs.

House Republican leadership cautioned its members not to use “such sums as necessary” at the beginning of last Congress, as one of nine “legislative protocols.”

“Any bill or joint resolution authorizing discretionary appropriations shall specify the actual amount of funds being authorized,” the protocol says. “This protocol is designed to improve transparency and accountability in the authorization of discretionary programs.”

 

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Government Illegally Lobbying Government

Lobbying chartThe U.S. government is out of control in a number of areas. We have the IRS targeting conservative and Tea Partiers. The Department of Justice has become the Department of Injustice by discriminating against Barack Obama’s enemies.

The Environmental Protection Agency considers itself a power unto itself pushing through punitive regulations that are costing American businesses and just plain citizens millions, if not, billions of dollars.

Despite a prohibition against taxpayer money being spent to influence government, millions of dollars meant for legitimate programs are being spent to lobby the Congress for more federal money.

The Inspector General of HUD has exposed a system in which offices around the country funded by the federal housing agency used tax dollars to campaign for favorable policies and larger budgets, clearly a violation of existing federal rules.

“Because HUD failed to implement adequate policies to monitor agencies’ compliance with lobbying requirements HUD lacked assurance that other agencies did not spend Federal funds on lobbying activities or violate other lobbying-related requirements,” the inspector general report, released last week, found.

“You’re using federal money to lobby Congress to get more federal money,” said Mark Calabria, a former HUD official who then spent seven years overseeing the agency as a Senate staff member working with the Banking Committee. “This is directly taking money that has been allocated by Congress to helping poor people and it’s being diverted to lobbying,” he said.

Investigators said the housing agencies in cities across the U.S. failed to disclose roughly $2.5 million they spent on lobbying — and that was only at nine of the 12 agencies that report engaging in lobbying activities.

However, watchdogs worry that undisclosed lobbying still could be occurring at the 3,200 other agencies HUD oversees, but which do not acknowledge engaging in any lobbying at all.

The Philadelphia Housing Authority failed to disclose lobbying activities for which it spent as much as $660,000 during the period 2006 to 2010, the report found. It also improperly spent $48,500 in federal funds on lobbying activities conducted through law firms, which the agency should be required to repay, the HUD inspector general said.

The Housing Authority of the City of Pittsburgh failed to disclose lobbying activities on which it improperly spent as much as $80,000 in federal funds in 2004 and 2005, and Home Forward in Portland, Oregon, failed to disclose lobbying activities conducted on its behalf.

While inspectors think the examined housing agencies may have wasted only $129,000 in federal money, they cautioned the problem could be affecting many more offices than the ones investigators reviewed, and suggested a further investigation of the problem.

HUD staff has pushed back in true bureaucratic fashion by complaining that the “extremely small sample size” investigators looked at does not warrant extensive changes at the agency to correct problems, and that additional steps to “obtain, track and retain lobbying certificates and disclosures is not a necessary remedy.”

“In light of these facts, the recommendations are overly burdensome to implement in relation to limited error rate and limited staff resources,” said a letter signed by Milan Ozdinec, the deputy assistant secretary in charge of public housing.

“The suggestion that HUD staff take proactive steps to detect violations related to lobbying activities would present an enormous challenge to HUD staff,” the statement said. “To require staff to run queries on approximately 3,200 [public housing agencies] does not appear to be an effective control to cover 12 or so exception cases.”

The lobbying issues have escalated beyond the scope of a single watchdog, bringing in investigators from HUD’s internal Office of Inspector General, the Government Accountability Office and the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations.

Part of the problem, the inspector general report found, was that HUD rarely monitored the housing agencies and instead relied on their word they were complying with lobbying laws.

“HUD accepted and relied on agencies’ certifications and disclosures without performing additional verification,” the IG report found. “HUD lacked reasonable assurance that agencies did not spend federal funds on lobbying activities, and the lack of accurate lobbying disclosures could create an appearance of a lack of transparency.”

HUD officials from the top down have urged their members and member agencies to lobby Congress in order to protect their interests.

Last year, HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan told an audience at the National Leagues of Cities Conference in Washington that local HUD officials should be lobbying their congressional representatives to restore funding to key programs.

“We the taxpayers are having to pay the public housing industry to lobby Congress on its own behalf,” said Mr. Calabria, the director of Financial Regulations Studies at the Cato Institute, a libertarian think-tank. “If JP Morgan had used TARP money to go lobby Congress, we’d all be greatly offended.”

One of the most recent updates to the lobbying law, a 2012 appropriations act, states specifically that “no part of any funds appropriated in this or any other Act shall be used by an agency of the executive branch for publicity or propaganda purposes.”

The law goes on to say that no money can be used to distribute any kind of “pamphlet, booklet, publication, radio, television or film presentation designed to support or defeat legislation pending before the Congress.”

As for the housing agencies, the biggest culprit could be HUD’s Moving to Work program, investigators said. The IG noted that agencies involved in the program make up just one percent of all housing organizations, yet included 44 percent of all lobbying disclosure violations.

 

 

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The IRS is at it again and again and again

Money down the toiletYou would think that IRS officials would understand that their agency’s reputation is now mud in the eyes of the American people. After the targeting scandals and Lois Lerner’s Fifth Amendment show by now they should understand America’s perception of them.

But no! John Koskinen, Commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service, seems to be tone-deaf when it comes to the public’s opinion of his agency.

Recently, he threatened to withhold taxpayer refunds because he claim that Congress has cut off the funding for his agency. In December he announced an immediate hiring freeze and suspension of all overtime pay.

In addition, Koskinen is consulting with National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU) officials about implementing a shutdown of IRS operations to save money. He has threatened a four-day work week that will delay processing federal income tax refunds.

Congressional Republicans are furious over the scandals and the stonewalling by the agency and the administration with Congressional committees investigating the agency. Koskinen’s contemptuous attitude when testifying before Congress added more fuel to the fire.

Some members also cite wasteful spending on training conferences that included customized parody videos and expensive pre-conference “inspection trips” for IRS staffers.

In addition, restricting the IRS’s budget is a tactic for delaying and complicating the implementation of the Affordable Care Act’s tax return–related provisions, including the calculation of tax subsidies for health insurance purchases on the state and federal exchanges.

Koskinen estimates that each day the IRS shuts down will save the agency $29 million, so a 12-day shutdown would make up most of the $350 million shortfall. However, Koskinen also points to a $250 million shortfall already in existence, so the total he cites is closer to $600 million, which would take 20.6 days of shutdown to make up.

But wait, there’s more. It was recently revealed that illegal aliens granted amnesty from deportation under President Obama’s new policies would be able to get extra refunds from the IRS for money they earned while working illegally, as long as they filed returns during those years.

Illegal immigrants who are granted the amnesty will be given official Social Security numbers, which means they can go back and amend up to three years of previous tax forms to claim the Earned Income Tax Credit, potentially claiming billions of dollars in additional payments they were ineligible for before the amnesty.

“This is the problem you get into,” said Sen. Charles E. Grassley, an Iowa Republican who demanded a solution to the loophole. “The IRS’s interpretation of the EITC eligibility requirements undermines congressional policy for not rewarding those working illegally in the United States.”

Finally, it has been revealed by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration J. Russell George. The IRS rehired hundreds of employees who had prior records of bad performance at the agency, including 141 former workers who had botched their own tax returns and others who had used their positions to peek at private tax information, the agency’s inspector general said in a report released Thursday.

Officials at the agency said it follows the current guidelines from the Office of Personnel Management and believes it already has the ability to handle these cases, saying its current process can weed out bad actors.

Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, chairman of the Senate Committee on Finance, said the report is stunning, coming the same week that President Obama proposed a massive increase in the IRS budget, including hiring 9,000 new agency workers.

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5 Most Egregious Examples of Government Waste

money_drain_articleEvery year the federal government loses tens of billions of dollars to waste, fraud and abuse. Unfortunately, 2014 was no exception.

Federal auditors issued plenty of scathing reports this year flagging programs and projects that were inefficient or wasteful. They also identified numerous costly instances of wrongdoing by federal employees.

Drawing on much of our reporting throughout the year, The Fiscal Times identified five of the most egregious examples of government waste in 2014.

Afghanistan Reconstruction: It’s basically been standard operating procedure for John Sopko, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), to warn Congress about the failing $104 billion reconstruction effort in that country. Numerous projects have gone well over budget and been left unfinished, while millions of dollars have vanished and likely ended up in the wrong hands. In 2010, auditors said they could only account for about 10 percent of the total money spent repairing the war-torn country. Read more about the vast amounts squandered in Afghanistan here.

Entitlement Programs: Government agencies in charge of major federal programs such as Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security have doled out about $100 million in improper payments each year for the last five years. The payments include everything from outright fraud to errors made by the agencies or errors made by people claiming the payments. Between 2002 and 2012, federal agencies gave out about $688 billion to the wrong people.

Agencies are required to estimate the payment error rate of their programs. For example, Medicare’s Fee for Service program had an error rate of 10.1 percent in 2013 – about $33.2 billion of the program’s total payments were improper. Read more about it here.

Rewarded for Bad Behavior: The Government Accountability Office revealed this year that the federal government paid $3.1 billion to federal workers on administrative leave over the last three years. Of this amount, $775 million went to 57,000 employees who were off work for a month or longer.

Though not all of this money can be considered waste, lawmakers have questioned federal agencies’ use of administrative leave – especially when the departments place those employees accused of wrongdoing on leave for extended periods of time while they collect government salaries. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) had referred to these instances as “taxpayer-funded vacations.” Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) said in an interview earlier this year, “Instead of firing misbehaving employees, Washington rewards those who have broken the law or engaged in misconduct by paying them to do nothing – sometimes for many years.”

In one example, Veterans Affairs executives at a Phoenix, Virginia health care center – caught covering up hidden wait lists – were put on administrative leave in May and continue to receive their annual government salaries of $85,000. Read more here.

I.T. Failures Cost Taxpayers a Fortune:  The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s new case filing system, “Sentinel,” is just the latest chapter in federal IT flops. The system, ridden with problems, has spiraled $100 million over budget – and it still barely works. Auditors say the system, which is supposed to make it easier to search case files, is so flawed it actually makes the process more time consuming and difficult. Read more here.

FEMA Fumbles Funding and Fails: FEMA spent $240 million building a high-tech system to help deliver supplies and coordinate the multi-agency response to national disasters. But a review by the Department of Homeland Security’s Inspector General found the Logistics Supply Chain Management System so riddled with errors that it can’t “interface” with other agencies – making it nearly impossible to locate and deliver emergency supplies.

The IG also said that even if the system worked, agency employees have not been trained properly to use it. Overall, auditors concluded, “Despite spending about $247 million over nine years, FEMA cannot be certain its supply chain management system will be effective during a catastrophic disaster.”

This is a huge problem: FEMA is notorious for botching its delivery of disaster relief. Just ask Hurricane Sandy victims. Read more here.

This article by Brianna Ehley first appeared in The Fiscal Times.

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Improper Payments add to Waste, Fraud and Abuse

Cutting waste, fraud and abuse is a favorite mantra for Washington politicians. It seems that when politicians want to get a crowd riled up they always mention this phrase.

But the dirty little secret is that Washington politicians simply don’t have the political will to cut government waste, fraud and abuse. They talk a good game but can’t follow through.

Waste, fraud and abuse according the Mercatus Center is about $100 billion a year. It’s not exactly chump change in a $4 trillion budget but still it’s substantial.

One way to look at the problem is to look at what the government calls ‘improper payments. Looking at the ‘improper payments for various government programs is a good way to identify which programs do and don’t work well.

Medicare is considered by many to be the biggest offender in total dollars but the waste only amounts to 10.1%. By all accounts the biggest offender by percentage is the Earned Income Tax Credit with a waste factor of 24%.

The second largest program is surprisingly the National School Lunch Program, which is a small program but boasts a 15% improper payment rate.

Medicaid comes off pretty well here, as does SNAP (commonly called food stamps). There are two takeaways: either the programs need more oversight and reform to work better, or programs like these can’t work with such high improper payment rates and need to be replaced with programs that do.

The full write-up, from Mercatus, is here.

 

 

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