The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO


April 19, 2012

Our View: Wasting taxpayers' money

Congress is now holding hearings over the General Services Administration’s lavish expenditure of public funds for a conference held about two years ago.

The funds spent in just that single conference  have outraged the American public and both sides of the aisle in Congress.

In our view, this particular incident, first exposed by GSA personnel, is just the tip of the iceberg.  It all boils down to a continuing lack of trust by Americans over how the government spends our taxpayer dollars at any level of government.

All businesses, government or private, must spend some money for the sake of employee morale and team building.  However there must be accountability in any business, government or private, to ensure that the spending is justified. It is the lack of holding individuals responsible and accountable on a routine basis that causes such scandals.

But when Congress gets involved, the solutions always result, it seems, in more laws or regulations. And the distrust by citizens simply continues. Congress, with a very big stick, might close some loopholes in the GSA after all is said and done in this case.  But that will not fix the essential distrust.

Here is one example: News outlets reported that some GSA official decided to spend $9,000 on “color coded name tags” for a conference.  He is being chastised for not receiving competitive bids for that service. That is simply crazy. It was not the bidding process at fault; it was the idea that a stick-on name tag filled in with a pen would not suffice to identify attendees.

At a deeper level, supervisors should question why hold the conference in the first place, routinely. Just how many government conferences for government employees turn out to simply be “junkets” paid for by the taxpayers?

Congress or the GSA will discipline the senior officials in this incident. But, will they fix the problem? Who will stand up and say, “This is a waste of time and money”?

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