Your Government Is Here To…Oh, Never Mind

August 7th, 2014 14 Comments


This stuff is great! This is the kind of stuff no one, except possibly Mel Brooks, could make up. This is the headline from USA Today, hardly a bastion of conservative governmental criticism:

“619 Billion Missing From Federal Transparency Site.”

I kid you not. The story goes on to say:

“A government website intended to make federal spending more transparent was missing at least $619 billion from 302 federal programs, a government audit has found.

And the data that does exist is wildly inaccurate, according to the Government Accountability Office, which looked at 2012 spending data. Only 2% to 7% of spending data on is “fully consistent with agencies’ records,” according to the report.

Among the data missing from the 6-year-old federal website:

• The Department of Health and Human Services failed to report nearly $544 billion, mostly in direct assistance programs like Medicare. The department admitted that it should have reported aggregate numbers of spending on those programs.

• The Department of the Interior did not report spending for 163 of its 265 assistance programs because, the department said, its accounting systems were not compatible with the data formats required by The result: $5.3 billion in spending missing from the website.

• The White House itself failed to report any of the programs it’s directly responsible for. At the Office of National Drug Control Policy, which is part of the White House, officials said they thought HHS was responsible for reporting their spending.

For more than 22% of federal awards, the spending website literally doesn’t know where the money went. The “place of performance” of federal contracts was most likely to be wrong.

That’s a problem, said Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., the chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee.

“We live in a world in which information drives decisions,” Carper said. “And, given the budget constraints that our government faces, we need reliable information on how and where our money is being spent.”

Golly, Mr. Carper. Do you really think so?

The headline is, I admit, slightly misleading. The website is not actually missing money itself; it is missing data on government spending, partly because the vast bulk of government, including the White House, either didn’t or couldn’t or wouldn’t report their spending, and partly because government follows the laws of nature which state that whenever anything becomes too big it gets unwieldy and inefficient and ultimately unable to survive.

If the government doesn’t even know where our money (that’s yours and mine, Baby) is going and how it’s being spent, if it can only account accurately for between two to seven percent of its spending, maybe the solution might be to work on increasing efficiency and oversight. Just a thought. But what do you want to bet some bright boy in the White House or the Senate or Congress will suggest we throw some more money at the problem to try and fix it?

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Our taxpayer dollars at work. Why is the Federal government spending money on garbage like this?

  2. Anonymous says:

    Considering how our government screws stuff up this does not fill me with confidence.

  3. Anonymous says:

    It’s not that they can’t account for it, it’s that it can’t accurately report it on its transparency web site–not even remotely the same thing. And this web site is, incidentally, a welcomed effort after years of completely undisclosed spending under other administrations. Don’t damn the Obama administration for TRYING to be more transparent than any other previous administration. And yes, perhaps more money should be “thrown at it,” because part of the problem is antiquated systems that cannot communicate with each other accurately. Short term investment in improving those systems would most certainly have long term benefits for everyone.

    • If what you say is accurate, then you are privy to information that has not yet been made public. The news stories that I read (and I read multiple accounts) all stated that it was a question of agencies failing to report required financial information (Dept. of the Interior, HHS, and the White House are all cited as examples in the story quoted above, albeit for different reasons) or because it was not known where the money went.
      As for damning the Obama administration, I don’t know how you came away with that. I am very much in favor of any attempt, even a failed one, to provide transparency, and I did not cite the administration specifically. However, I was damning, am damning, and do damn “government,” by which I mean the administration, the Senate, the House of Representatives, and just about every single damned agency there is (not all, but almost) for a perfect marriage of arrogance and incompetence. What is really shocking is that none of this failure to know or failure to account for the taxpayers’ money is new. It’s just that the extent of the government’s willingness to be irresponsible with our money is greater than was realized, and if Obama deserves credit for making that known, then kudos to him.
      However, I fear nothing you can say will ever convince me that spending more money on a problem is the way to fix it.

      • Anonymous says:

        How about hiring honest, competent accountants who follow the rules and report all spending?

  4. Anonymous says:

    I’m afraid I can’t help thinking that the gov’t and various agencies KNOW where the money is/went, they just don’t wanna tell 😀

  5. Anonymous says:

    The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help.’
    Ronald Reagan
    40th president of US (1911 – 2004)

  6. Anonymous says:

    It does seem like as you said that they will make that suggestion of putting more money out to try and fix this issue. That seems to have been their answer for more than a few problems have heard about over the years. Sometimes I honestly wonder what all we are or are not being told the truth of and sometimes maybe it would be too scary to know the full story of every governmental matter. But they do say knowledge is power but kind of does make you not feel too confident when you find out some of the knowledge you are being told has more than a few holes in it.

    Nancy Darlene

  7. Anonymous says:

    Not only is the Obama administration not transparent it is the least transparent administration in recent history.

  8. Anonymous says:

    They can’t seem to figure out HOW or WHERE the tax dollars are spent, so how can they know TO A FRICKIN’ PENNY if we peasants haven’t PAID our taxes? About time to resurrect Robin Hood, in my opinion…..the other, crazier, wordier(ha!) L. B.

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