ED082296c: Wasting Your Money
With all the talk in Washington about slashing budgets, cutting
deficits and axing federal programs, you'd think it would be hard
(or at least harder) to come up with stories about government
waste, fraud and abuse. After all, these are the first things
Congress and the White House would do something about ... right?
Wrong. Despite Congress' best efforts to trim the pork, big
government is alive and well.
- Auditors for the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development
(HUD) recently discovered that the Baltimore Public Housing
Authority had purchased eight new Chevy Blazers as take-home cars
for its top managers; hired a security firm that employed 29
convicted felons; and sold more than $25 million-worth of contracts
for building repairs to contractors, some of whom were friends or
relatives of Authority employees, without allowing competitive
bidding. In spite of these irregularities, HUD recently awarded the
housing authority $115 million more to construct 338 new apartment
- According to the General Accounting Office, the official
auditing arm of Congress, the U.S. Export-Import Bank gave large
bonuses to 200 of its 448 employees -- even though only 10 were
eligible. Of five federal agencies reviewed for such "bonus abuse,"
the Ex-Im Bank had the smallest work force -- but accounted for
one-quarter of all bonuses government-wide!
- The brothers Alfonso Jr. (Alfie) and Jose (Pepe) Fanjul,
citizens of Spain, are two of America's richest sugar barons. Their
fortune is estimated at $500 million. Because they are considered
"domestic growers," the Fanjul brothers also are "entitled" to a
government-enforced import-protection subsidy that adds about eight
cents per pound to the cost of the sugar we buy. How much of our
money are the Fanjul brothers pulling in from this subsidy each
year? A cool $65 million.
- Financial mismanagement in the District of Columbia is
legendary. In 1994, for example, Lloyd Arrington Jr., president of
the city-funded Economic Development Finance Corporation (EDFC),
collected a $17,000 bonus on top of his $70,000 salary, another
$1,650 for parking and $600 for rented formal wear, dinners and
entertainment. By the time his now nine-year old EDFC -- created to
loan money to promising businesses 3/4 was audited in 1994, it had
made only 17 loans, or less than two per year.
- HUD (again) funded and sponsored a "training session" for 260
public housing tenants and HUD employees in 1995 -- at the San
Juan, Puerto Rico, Casino Hotel and Sands Beach Resort! "We promise
you a vacation that will be unforgettable!! Casinos for Dads.
Beaches, Swimming, Snorkeling, Dancing & Touring etc. ... for
youths. Exotic Shopping, Beauty Salon for complete pampering for
Moms. Appetizing, Savory, Delicious foods for the Family Meals,"
read the invitation. Cost to taxpayers for a "training session"
later found by the HUD Inspector General to lack "programmatic
substance" (in other words, it was a boondoggle)? $325,000.
There's more -- much more. Like the new $373 million
air-traffic-control system -- installed at 16 airports and destined
for 47 -- that has suffered frequent shutdowns and failures. It has
failed nearly once a week at Washington's National Airport. Or the
Public Health Service physician who complained recently to The
Washington Post that he is being paid $117,000 per year, plus a
$15,000 bonus, to do absolutely no work at all. He made the front
page. Or the $280,000 taxpayer-funded study now getting underway in
Seattle to determine if a chemical widely used in sexual lubricants
makes sex safer for homosexuals. Yes, you read that correctly.
Maybe now you can understand why Congress was willing to go to
the mat with the administration -- to the point of allowing the
government to shut down temporarily -- over federal spending.
These horror stories are just a few of the boondoggles that have
been uncovered. Just think what remains hidden from view.
Feulner, Ph.D. is president of The Heritage
Foundation, a Washington-based public policy research