Friday, July 2, 2010

Waste and Fraud: Walden Goes After the Big Game

Posted By on Fri, Jul 2, 2010 at 6:16 PM

Eastern Oregon's own Rep. Greg Walden and a couple of other Republican congressmen have unleashed their righteous wrath on a federal program that helps low-income folks heat their homes.

Walden and two Texas congressmen, Michael Burgess and Joe Barton, had the Government Accountability Office look into the Low Income Heating Assistance Program (LIHEAP), and it discovered, according to a report by KTVZ, (http://www.ktvz.com/news/24113285/detail.html) that "9% of households in seven states could be improperly receiving" LIHEAP money amounting to $116 million a year.

The GAO discovered that "more than 11,000 dead people and hundreds of prisoners were used as applicants or household members for LIHEAP benefits," said the KTVZ story. "More than 1,000 federal employees whose federal salary exceeded [the] maximum income threshold received benefits and in several cases, people living in million-dollar houses received benefits." (You can read the whole 62-page GAO report here http://republicans.energycommerce.house.gov/Media/file/News/063010_GAO_Report_LIHEAP.pdf)

"LIHEAP seems to be another example of waste, fraud and abuse running rampant and unchecked in government programs, and must be reined in," Congressman Burgess fumed. "Low-income Texans have a hard time accessing their fair share of LIHEAP funding, so to learn that 9% of LIHEAP funds are wasted is astonishing."

(It would truly be astonishing to learn that 9% of LIHEAP funds are wasted, but the GAO report doesn't say that. It says that "about 9% of households receiving benefits - totaling $116 million - in the selected states contained invalid identity information." LIHEAP is funded at $5 billion a year; if 9% of that was being wasted the waste would amount to $450 million, not $116 million.)

Not to be outdone in outrage by his colleagues, Walden declared that the LIHEAP program is "yet another poster child of waste, fraud, and abuse. ... By the way, this is the same outfit" - the Department of Health and Human Services - "that's going to run the $1 trillion government takeover of healthcare. The American people deserve far better protection of their tax dollars."

Since HHS has been such a colossal failure at running LIHEAP, I think Walden and his fellow Republicans should push a bill turning that program - and also the new health care program - over to an agency of the federal government that has NEVER been tainted by waste, fraud or abuse and has ALWAYS meticulously accounted for every penny: the Department of Defense.

Okay, there has been an occasional minor slip-up - like when the DOD's own inspector general discovered in 2003 (http://articles.sfgate.com/2003-05-18/news/17491492_1_pentagon-gao-financial-accounting) that the Pentagon couldn't account for more than a trillion dollars of its spending. Amonrevealed g other things, the Army apparently had mislaid 56 planes, 32 tanks and 36 Javelin missile command launch units.

Or when the Pentagon's chief deputy inspector general revealed (http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2009/02/01/iraq/main4767378.shtml) that same year that there were "154 open criminal investigations into allegations of bribery, conflicts of interest, defective products, bid rigging, and theft stemming from the wars" in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Or when nobody could figure out what happened to tens of billions of dollars in cash - pallets stacked high with bundles of $100 bills - that was flown into Iraq shortly after the US invasion and vanished as if it had been sucked into the desert sands.

Wrote The American Conservative magazine (http://www.amconmag.com/article/2005/oct/24/00007) in 2005: "The 15-month proconsulship of the CPA [Coalition Provisional Authority] disbursed nearly $20 billion, two-thirds of it in cash. ... Most of the money was flown into Iraq on C-130s in huge plastic shrink-wrapped pallets holding 40 'cashpaks,' each cashpak having $1.6 million in $100 bills. Twelve billion dollars moved that way between May 2003 and June 2004, drawn from accounts administered by the New York Federal Reserve Bank. The $100 bills weighed an estimated 363 tons."

But, as I said, these are just minor instances - nothing to compare with a middle-income family getting over on the government for a cord of firewood or a tank of propane.


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