There are certain things in life that are synonymous.
The Chicago Cubs and post-season disappointment, Steven Seagal and abominable acting, and the government and waste.
The first two probably require no deep drill down for explanation and as for the third, well, I present the latest example, courtesy of omnipresent watchdog, the Government Accountability Office.
Several weeks ago, I wrote how employees of the Department of Justice had wracked up some $7 million for its conferences over a two-year period, blowing its budget like an overfilled mylar balloon.
But that DOJ figure pales in comparison to the $146 million tab that federal employees wasted on business and first class airline tickets over the past year.
I will repeat that for emphasis - $146 million.
To compile this almost unfathomable figure, the GAO audited travel spending in roughly a dozen agencies from July 2005 to June 2006 and found that 67 percent of the aforementioned $146 million was unauthorized or unjustified.
Chief among Uncle Sam’s spendthrifts were senior officials at the State Department, who, according to the Auditor General treated the business or first class flights as an entitlement. As a result, the State Department’s airfare T&E ranged anywhere from five to 10 times higher than was authorized under federal travel rules.
Under existing guidelines, federal employees must fly coach for both domestic and international flights unless the trips exceed 14 hours. There are exceptions of course for medical reasons and lack of availability for coach seats.
One employee from the USDA apparently didn’t get that memo. Said employee took 25 first-class trips costing $163,000. When asked about approval, the accidental tourist said that the expenses had been approved by a subordinate.
I wonder if the next time I fly to the West Coast for business I can get the company receptionist to approve a first-class flight?
Meanwhile, a Pentagon employee cited a medical condition as the reason for his 15 premium-class flights. Problem was his medical condition — a years old surgical procedure — was attested to not by a physician, but by a colleague.
Does my appendectomy 30 years ago hold any sway?
I once again highlight an egregious example of government waste only because I’m hoping it will generate some healthy skepticism the next time a 2008 presidential candidate assures you the government can efficiently manage universal health care or fill out your tax return so competently that you only need to sign it and mail it in.
It’s times like these when I’m glad Steven Seagal doesn’t work for the government. We don’t need arguably, the country’s worst actor flying first class on the taxpayer’s dime.
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