Thursday, June 30, 2005

Your Tax Dollars At Work

From the Washington Post:

The money was spent in the name of improving security at the nation’s airports:

· $526.95 for one phone call from the Hyatt Regency O’Hare in Chicago to Iowa City.

· $1,180 for 20 gallons of Starbucks Coffee — $3.69 a cup — at the Santa Clara Marriott in California.

· $1,540 to rent 14 extension cords at $5 each per day for three weeks at the Wyndham Peaks Resort and Golden Door Spa in Telluride, Colo.

· $8,100 for elevator operators at the Marriott Marquis in Manhattan.

· $5.4 million claimed for nine months’ salary for the chief executive of an “event logistics” firm that received a contract before it was incorporated and went out of business after the contract ended.

Those details are contained in a federal audit that calls into question $303 million of the $741 million spent to assess and hire airport passenger screeners for the newly created Transportation Security Administration after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The audit, along with interviews with people involved in the passenger-screener contract, paints a rare and detailed portrait of how officials at the fledgling agency lost control of the spending in the pell-mell rush to hire 60,000 screeners to meet a one-year congressional deadline.

The audit, performed by the Defense Contract Audit Agency at the TSA’s behest, spotlights scores of expenses: $20-an-hour temporary workers billed to the government at $48 per hour, subcontractors who signed out $5,000 in cash at a time with no supporting documents, $377,273.75 in unsubstantiated long-distance phone calls, $514,201 to rent tents that flooded in a rainstorm, $4.4 million in “no show” fees for job candidates who did not appear for tests.

I work in the public sector — yeah, I’m a nameless faceless government bureaucrat — and one of the things that slows down my work is the accountability factor. Nothing I do gets through my office without being checked by at least three other people, nothing gets out without reams of supporting documentation, and nothing goes through without being verified within an inch of its life. The two words that can ruin my day are “audit exception.” That’s like getting a subpeona. I’m rather proud of the work I do, too — it makes the public schools here in South Florida better, and we are very careful with every dollar. This is why stories like this really piss me off. First, it’s an incredible waste of my money because of this lack of accountability, and second, it gives people like me a black eye. I work my ass off trying to do the right thing for the kids in our schools and these bozos in the TSA — an agency that’s supposed to be protecting us in the global war on terror — is blowing $1,180 on Starbucks. Sheesh.