With September 30th as the end of the U.S. government’s budget year, bureaucrats facing use-it-or-lose-it rules swept up over $50 billion in leftover cash and went on the biggest one-day Porkapolooza shopping spree of the year.
The “system typically creates panic for federal workers scrambling to spend millions of dollars before they run out of time. It also means a huge payday for contractors scoring big awards”, according to the Fiscal Times.
When the sequester cuts slashed $85 billion from the federal budget, supposedly crippling federal programs like Head Start and halting crucial research at the National Institutes of Health, the government continued spending tax dollars on things like 3-D pizza printers for NASA, a beachfront property loan program for millionaires, and a $300 million Army surveillance blimp that doesn’t work. These are a just a few of the egregiously stupid things that government wastes $30 billion of taxpayers cash on, according to Senator Tom Coburn’s annual “Wastebook“.
Last year, the government spent about $50 billion the week before October 1, according to NPR’s Shankar Vedantam. The ultimate trip to the mall included impulse buys like artwork worth $562,000 for the Department of Veterans Affairs and $144,000 in toner cartridges for the Department of Agriculture.
The Pentagon, as the ultimate shop ’til you drop practitioner spent $5.5 billion on the last day of the fiscal year after the Department of Defense, sent an email encouraging employees to spend as much as they could before the clock struck midnight.
“It is critical in our efforts to [expend] 100% of our available resources this fiscal year,” said budget officer Sannadean Sims and procurement officer Kathleen Miller in the email obtained by The Washington Post. “It is also imperative that your organization meets its projected spending goal for June.”
An analysis by Harvard University’s Jeffrey Liebman and the University of Chicago’s Neale Mahoney, using data from 2004 to 2009, found that 8.7% of total federal government spending is rung up in the last week of the fiscal year. For a $3.9 trillion federal budget, that amounts to $339.3 billion or over $2 billion an hour.
With the clock relentlessly ticking-down to the terror of having to give money back, the researchers took a look at the quality of final week purchase contract performance. Looking at about 700 major federal information technology projects worth a total of $130 billion, they concluded that projects awarded in the last week of the fiscal year were 2.2 to 5.6 times more likely to be of lower quality, according to the analysis.
The Obama administration offered a proposal in 2010 that would have allowed agencies to roll-over and bank a certain percentage of their unused budgets, with another percentage of the remainder going toward reducing the deficit. But such rational behavior found no friends in Congressional leadership from both parties, who refused to bring the issue up for a vote.
According to the Fiscal Times, Liebman and Mohoney found that the Justice Department, which has been “excused from the rules” since 1992 and is able to roll-over up to 4% of its annual revenue into IT projects, observed “no accompanying decline in the quality of year-end projects.”
The public will not know what its federal government bought on its ultimate shopping day for at least six months, but this year’s Porkapolooza must have been epic.
Chriss Street suggests that if you are interested in silly government please click on California May Face Similar Utility Crisis that Caused Gray Davis Recall