by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Early in his tenure as secretary of the Department of the Interior (DOI), Ryan Zinke asked for a briefing on DOI grant programs and found to his dismay that not a single person could tell him how much DOI disbursed in grants every year or what projects it had funded or was committed to funding. Saying he feared that the grant program was open to fraud and abuse, Zinke order DOI to review its major grants and cooperative agreements.
Zinke’s fears proved prescient. …
… A second report, this one from the Department of Energy (DOE)’s I.G., found that in its push to commercialize the capture and storage of carbon dioxide from coal-fired power plants, the Obama administration failed to exercise proper oversight over more than $400 million it gave to a now bankrupt Texas company. This was a case of incompetence rather than malfeasance. …
… One lesson to draw from these two cases is that government regulatory agencies are just too big for Congress or even their own auditors to exercise proper oversight. Because bureaucrats aren’t held accountable when they undertake illegal activities or exercise inept financial controls, they play fast and loose with taxpayers’ money, resulting in poor program results and squandered resources.
It’s good to see the Trump administration attempting to rein in out-of-control agency officials. However, I believe that to really have a far-reaching effect, punishment for such activities must ensue. Only when bureaucrats lose their jobs and pensions or spend some time behind bars for their malfeasance will they take seriously their charge to serve the public and spend taxpayers’ dollars wisely.