House Committee Cites "Persistent" Evidence Of Government Waste

By Jim Burns | July 7, 2008 | 8:25 PM EDT

Washington ( - The House Budget Committee's majority staff has made public a report on what the staff believes is "persistent" government waste. Even as the report was released on Capitol Hill committee members said they are continuing to investigate government waste and trying to find ways to end it.

Among some of the examples included in the report:

The committee staffers said, "A sum of $14,000 was set aside to convert the charcoal grill at the Air Force Academy's Otis House to natural gas, according to the Air Force Auditing Agency. Another $40,000 was designated for moving a bathroom wall at the house, the residence for the Commandment of Cadets, so that an adjoining bedroom's interior could be widened by one foot. In both cases, funding came from the Air Force's operations and maintenance account, which supports troop readiness."

In the report the committee staff said it found, "To replace testing of nuclear weapons, the Department of Energy (DOE) is spending large sums on a massive computer simulated program known as the Strategic Computer Initiative (SCI)." It was started in 1995 and projected to cost $1.7 billion in its first five years. But the General Accounting Office (GAO) noted recently that, in 1999 when DOE reevaluated its completion date for the five-year period, the total projected cost had grown to $5.7 billion, which GAO blamed partly on "weak management".

The report also cites a recent episode where the District of Columbia awarded a $6.6 million contract to a company with no experience in the field of job placement, but was owned by a personal friend of the city official awarding the contracts. The contract called for the company to find jobs for 1,500 welfare recipients. But after spending $1 million in federal grant money over nine months, the company had placed only 30 recipients in jobs.

The Employment and Training Administration (ETA), according to the committee staff, receives about $9 billion a year, more than three-fourths of the total discretionary Labor Department funds. But when asked by the Education and the Workforce Committee's American Worker Project for an accounting of ETA grants and contracts awarded with the funds, the agency said the information was not available in a "single volume" or "in detail". In addition, the department said producing the data on a fiscal year basis was too time consuming, cumbersome and difficult.

The committee staff also discovered the case of a federal government retiree who was living in Greenbelt, Maryland, a Washington suburb before he died in 1994. However, his death was not reported to the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) and the retiree's neighbor forged the signature of the deceased on checks that were sent to the retiree's home, fraudulently obtaining $74,700 in Civil Service Retirement System benefits before being caught based on an anonymous tip, according to OPM's Inspector General.

A Michigan podiatrist, committee investigators say, billed Medicare for incision and drainage of wounds and abscesses when he only performed routine nail care that was not covered by Medicare, according to an inspector for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The doctor also prescribed Tylenol #3 to patients, although some of them had not even removed their shoes for examination.

Rose Hall Resort Limited, according to committee investigators, received a $60 million loan from the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) to build a hotel and beach resort near Montego Bay, Jamaica, according to OPIC's 1998 annual report. The Planning Institute of Jamaica, according to the committee, said in 1994 that Jamaica already had 25 resort hotels with 4,600 rooms; and in 1998 alone, the private sector invested about $7.6 billion in the construction of 10 new hotels and the expansion of eight existing hotels.

The committee also cited OPIC for providing a $4 million loan to Orient-Express Hotels for camping and lodging facilities in Botswana. Orient- Express Hotels (under the name "Gametrackers") currently operates three safari camps in Botswana equipped with "twin bedded luxury tents with en-suite facilities and air conditioning, fully stocked bar, laundry service, curio shop, VHS and monitor, book and video library, 32 volt battery lighting system, swimming pool" and charges a minimum daily rate of $315 to $400 depending on the season.

In releasing the report, House Budget Committee Chairman John Kasich (R-OH) says the committee plans to hold hearings on government waste early next year. The committee may call taxpayers with government waste stories to testify.