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How Washington, D.C., Works (or Not), Part 4

Thursday August 8th, 2013   •   Posted by Craig Eyermann at 6:52am PDT   •  

ethics-sign1 Freakonomics co-author Stephen Dubner recently conducted a very entertaining interview with the authors of another publication that readers of the MyGovCost blog might find interesting. We’ll let him describe it:

Our latest podcast is called “Government Employees Gone Wild.”…

It’s about a book that I’ve come to love — a most unusual book. What makes it unusual?

  1. It is made available online, as a Word document, but is not actually published.
  2. It is free (or, more accurately, it’s already been paid for — by U.S. taxpayers).
  3. It is published by the U.S. Department of Defense.

This unusual book is called The Encyclopedia of Ethical Failure, and you can get it here (2013 additions here). What is it? It’s an ethics guide for government employees, full of true stories about epic screw-ups.

Intrigued? Here’s an excerpt from the Encyclopedia, which considers what happened with a couple of unethical federal government employees that profited from red tape. Literally….

“Two workers at the Veterans Affairs Consolidated Mail Outpatient Pharmacy, which mails prescriptions to veterans, were charged with taking kickbacks for purchasing a product from a supplier at more than twice the normal price. The product? Red tape. The employees were charged with purchasing 100,000 rolls of the tape, which is stamped with the word “security” and is meant to deter tampering, at $6.95 a roll rather than its $2.50 retail value. In return, they received kickbacks of more than $1 per roll. The duo will have plenty of time to appreciate the irony of their situation, as they face a sentence of 15 years in jail.”

And here’s another excerpt, which features the kind of “teambuilding” exercise that we all wish could be funded by taxpayers:

A member of the Senior Executive Service authorized the use of appropriated funds for two optional, off-site “teambuilding” events: a wine tasting event and a hors d’oeuvres tasting event. The SES member argued that these events were justified as “necessary teambuilding” events. It turns out that the events were not so “necessary” after all: no employees were actually required to attend the events, which took place off-site. The Inspector General found that the SES had improperly authorized the use of appropriated funds for these events, which were not necessary. She was counseled by her superiors as a result.

Ah, to live the life of one of Uncle Sam’s exceptionally well-compensated minions! In any case, click here to access the podcast!

Featured Image:
Ethical Standards for DC Government Workers

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August 2013