Senator Tom Coburn has just released the 2013 edition of the Wastebook—his office’s annual compendium of the most extreme examples of wasteful spending within the U.S. federal government—just in time for the holidays!
Backed by 930 citations, the 2013 Wastebook lists 100 examples of things that the federal government’s bureaucrats have done with taxpayer dollars that, if they were really looking out for the best interests of the American people, they really shouldn’t have spent the way they did.
And in the spirit of the season, we thought the perfect kickoff would be the customized Christmas ornaments purchased by the U.S. Marshals Service!
The wasteful spending by the U.S. Marshals was turned up in an Department of Justice’s Inspector General’s report. The 2013 Wastebook summarizes how the U.S. Marshals-themed ornaments came to be an annual expenditure during the recent recession:
For example, while items such as Christmas ornaments were not purchased in the first three years of the evaluation period, when the economy took a dive in 2008, spending on Christmas ornaments began and actually increased every year for three years. In fiscal year 2008, the USMS IOD spent $2875; in 2009, it spent $4622; and in 2010, it spent $6108. Over 3 years, the USMS IOD purchased 1,679 ornaments, totaling $13,605 or $8.10 per ornament. 453 of those ornaments were purchased in 2010 alone, but ultimately none were distributed. Upon a certain employee’s interview with the DOJ OIG in June 2012, the ornaments still sat in his office due to “a USMS directive banning the purchase and distribution of promotional items.”
The ornaments were generally used as gifts for USMS IOD staff and guests at the annual Christmas party and for those operating the America’s Most Wanted tipline. One assistant chief stated the ornaments were a “word of encouragement” to employees, a “recognition of their work done throughout the year,” and “improved morale.” However, in general, rules state appropriated funds may not be used for personal gifts to government employees, unless “there is a direct link between the items and the agency’s purposes for which Congress has appropriated funding.” The DOJ IG explicitly stated none of these reasons established the expenses as necessary.
Yet, the USMS employee who approved the purchase of 285 ornaments, “didn’t think much” of buying them and that they were “cute.”
In response to concerns raised about the agencies affinity for swag, the agency finally is cutting back, and the administration budget is now only $6,000 to stuff their swag bag. Good thing they stocked up.
Overall, the U.S. Marshals Service’s Internal Operations Division spent a total of $13,605 on Christmas ornaments ($13,605) and $779,513 on other promotional “swag” items (including on things like challenge coins, drinkware, pens, blankets, ties, etc.) over a six year period, for a wasteful spending total of $793,118.
You can probably find many of these items for sale on e-Bay or at other online retailers who specialize in reselling such products after they’re sold for cash by their federal government employee recipients.
And this, by the way, is a success story for wasteful government spending, because the wasteful spending was stopped....
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