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USDA wasted millions on cars it never uses

Government waste

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(NaturalNews) The U.S. government, which takes in trillions of dollars a year in tax dollars, tariffs and other fees, always manages to spend more than it receives – a huge problem that only seems to get larger as the bureaucracy grows. That helps explain why the government has such a massively growing deficit.

With a widening chasm between revenues and expenditures, one might think that the government's bureaucracies would do everything they could to make every dollar count. However, such behavior is rare among federal bureaucrats.

A recent finding by the Department of Agriculture's Office of Inspector General is a classic example. An OIG audit recently found that the department spent $6.2 million on cars that it doesn't even need.

As reported by the Washington Free Beacon, incompetence and laziness were the culprits:

Due to poor monitoring of vehicle logs the USDA has thousands of cars that are underused. The audit also identified $1.2 million in questionable fuel purchases by employees.

Why have so many unneeded vehicles?

"In this audit, the Office of Inspector General (OIG) found that the Office of Procurement and Property Management (OPPM) did not adequately structure the Department's fleet charge card program or provide USDA agencies with sufficient guidance to administer it," the audit said.

Like all government agencies and the military, the USDA issues fleet cards for each vehicle to purchase fuel. Cars for the agency are used when officials conduct food safety inspections, agricultural research, law enforcement and even fire suppression. During its audit, the OIG found that 1,133 vehicles were rarely used or not used at all. In addition, the audit found 5,703 USDA vehicles that were driven less than 5,000 miles over a year's time.

"Had USDA retained accurate log files and performed the minimum annual use tests, it could have achieved potential savings of approximately $6.2 million for vehicles that may not have been necessary," the OIG said.

The Washington Free Beacon reported:

Based on a sample of the vehicles it identified, the OIG estimated approximately half were unnecessary to the agency. Getting rid of the 3,076 underused vehicles could save the USDA approximately $2,000 per vehicle, or $6,152,000.

OIG auditors blamed the USDA for "not performing vehicle use studies or maintaining vehicle mileage logs to identify underused vehicles." The OPPM did not require vehicle logs to be "reviewed and approved by supervisors," the audit said.

"The structure of the program was impaired, in part, because of the large number of cardholders assigned to certain card monitors, or Local Fleet Program Coordinators (LFPC), and other supervisors who did not have the right tools to detect potential improper fleet card use," the audit said. In a number of cases, managers were supervising as many as 912 fleet cards - an impossible task.

This is probably happening all across the federal government

In addition to its other findings, the audit discovered the abuse of fleet cards; there were excessive purchases of gasoline in 11,151 questionable transactions that totaled about $1.2 million.

Auditors flagged cards that had been used to buy gasoline four or more times on the same day and transactions that amounted to double the average daily amount spent on the card.

The director of the USDA's Office of Procurement and Property Management, Lisa M. Wilusz, said she agreed with the OIG's recommendations that much better oversight of the fleet card program was needed. She added that the department had begun using a 6,100-mile-per-year baseline to identify the vehicles that the USDA does not need, but there was nothing in the WFB report indicating that the department would get rid of vehicles it doesn't need and rarely uses.

While the amounts of money mentioned in the OIG audit don't seem like much, there is no reason to believe this kind of negligent mismanagement isn't occurring across the spectrum of government agencies, which number 438.

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