August 31, 2014

USDA Stimulus Programs ‘Inherently Not Shovel Ready’

On Friday, August 29, the Washington Free Beacon's Elizabeth Harrington reported that an audit of the so-called "Recovery Act" at the U.S. Department of Agriculture found that over five years, $5 billion was misspent. According to Harrington:

"More than five years after the stimulus was signed into law, a new audit reveals the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) spent nearly $5 billion in questionable costs and funded programs that were “inherently not shovel ready.”

"The Office of Inspector General (OIG) published a “lessons learned” audit on Wednesday, reviewing how well the USDA oversaw $28 billion in stimulus funds from the Recovery Act. The audit compiled results of over 80 reports conducted by the OIG. (emphasis added)

"“As a result of these reviews, we also reported monetary exceptions of over $5.1 billion, including $4.9 billion related to questionable or unsupported costs,” the audit said.

“Most programs that received Recovery Act funds were expected to quickly pump money into the economy by immediately executing infrastructure and labor intensive projects,” the OIG said. “These were known as ‘shovel ready’ projects.”

“However, our reviews discovered USDA encountered challenges because several of its programs were inherently not ‘shovel ready,’” they said."

Harrington adds. "The largest area of mismanagement of stimulus funds came from the Single Family Housing Loans and Grants program, which is meant to secure homeownership for low-income Americans in rural areas." She provides these added details:

"The stimulus provided loans for 17 borrowers who “had no history of stable and dependable income,” and six loans were for properties that had aboveground swimming pools, which was strictly prohibited under the law.

“From our statistical sample, we project that 1,772 loans, worth $208 million (22 percent of the universe), may have similar noncompliance issues related to ineligible borrowers and properties,” the audit said.

"Overall, the Rural Housing Service that oversaw the program provided $4.16 billion from the stimulus to ineligible recipients.

“We concluded that the controls were not always adequate to safeguard Recovery Act funds and ensure that funds were expended in a manner that minimized the risk of improper use,” the OIG said.

“Specifically, we identified ineligible borrowers who received loan guarantees, even though they did not demonstrate the ability to repay the loan, possessed incomes that exceeded program limits, possessed sufficient financial resources to obtain loans without a government guarantee, already owned adequate housing in their local commuting areas, or purchased homes that had swimming pools,” they said."

Get eady to weep and outraged about more government waste, fraud and abuse as Harrington concludes:

"The USDA also had problems monitoring the $19.8 million in increased benefits for food stamps provided by the stimulus. “Specifically, the audit concluded that four of six selected States did not fully comply with Recovery Act provisions for transparency and accountability,” the audit said.

"Of the nearly $5 billion in unsupported costs, the USDA has recovered only $11 million. The OIG still has seven open investigations for fraud and abuse of Recovery Act funds."

All that "shovel ready" seems to have been nothing more than government bureaucrats shoveling manure. What is needed, however, is for voters to get out their shovels, and get rid of the tax-and-spend politicians and their bureaucratic underlings. The most important of the "lessons learned" from the IG audit seems to be the federal government wastes 18.2% ($5.1 billion/$28 billion) of the taxpayers' hard-earned tax dollars entrusted to the politicians and bureaucrats in Washington, D.C. What a scam!

Taxpayers reading Growls who are upset that Congress seems to do nothing but authorize more waste, fraud, and abuse of their hard-earned tax dollars are urged to contact their members of Congress. Information is available at Thomas (use left-hand column). Readers living in Virginia's Arlington County, should contact:

  • Senator Mark Warner (D) -  write to him or call (202) 224-2023
  • Senator Tim Kaine (D) -- write to him or call (202) 224-4024
  • Representative Jim Moran (D) -- write to him or call (202) 225-4376
And, tell them ACTA sent you. Kudos, too, to Elizabeth Harrington and the Washington Free Beacon.

August 30, 2014

Why Punish Taxpayers and/or Metro Users?

In an online story, one week ago on Saturday, August 23, at the Washington Times website, Phillip Swarts reported that "D.C. Metro will pay $4 million fine for abusing government grants. "According to Swarts:

"D.C.’s Metro system paid a $4.2 million settlement to the federal government after it used taxpayer money to help a favored contractor, the Justice Department announced this week.

"Metro gave a private business a $14 million contract, without any competition or bidding from other companies, government records show, violating the Federal Transit Administration’s policies for the use of grants and funds.

“The American people have a right to know that their government is following rules and regulations in spending the taxpayers’ money,” said Ronald Machen, the U.S. Attorney for D.C.

"Metro officials could not be reached for comment Friday."

Why didn't Metro or the federal government go after either Metro's contracting officer who awarded the grant or the senior executive official at Metro responsible for contracts and grants. Either or both of those officials presumably should have known the contract/grant was awarded improperly. And shouldn't an official at the Federal Transit Administration, who was responsible for awarding the grant, have done more to assure the grant was properly awarded?

As is, the burden of the settlement falls on the backs of Metro riders and/or taxpayers who subsidize Metro.

I have asked Arlington County Board member Mary Hynes, a member of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (Metro) Board, for comment, and will "update" this Growls with their comment as appropriate.

Growls readers, who are concerned about this issue, are urged to contact the Arlington County Board. You can e-mail the County Board by clicking-on the following link, or call them:

  • Call the Board office at (703) 228-3130

August 29, 2014

A Thought on Greed

“I have never understood why it is "greed" to want to keep the money you have earned but not greed to want to take somebody else's money.”

~ Thomas Sowell


Cool NOTE: ElGrowlerGrande has returned; hope to be growling on a daily basis for the foreseeable future..

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Items in Growls are written by individual ACTA members and do not necessarily represent the views of the Arlington County Taxpayers Association, Inc. Please send comments about Growls to The Growl Meister