Letters to the Editor
More on government waste
I read with interest the Bureaucratus column "Waste not, want not" [FCW,
I've worked in government contracting for 30 years in six different agencies,
and I've seen much waste and foolishness. It bothers me more than it appears
to bother most of the people I've worked with. My career has suffered because
of my unwillingness to "shut up and color."
However, I haven't seen the so-called "improper payments" mentioned in your
article. Perhaps the term should've been defined better. If somebody drawing
Social Security dies and his family continues to cash the deceased's checks,
is that an improper payment or is it just everyday fraud? Same thing with
Medicare fee for service. If a doctor lances a boil and bills it as a tumor,
is the government faulted for being suckered?
In cost-type contracting, we sometimes have to reimburse a contractor for
overhead and G&A expense using rates that have been projected based
on prior years' experience. When an audit reveals the rates should've been
lower and the overpayment is recouped with interest, has an improper payment
The key issue, I think, is not how much money is improperly disbursed, but
rather what is the net after these mistakes are discovered [and] reported
and collection action taken. This aspect is missing from the column. Many
readers will assume the entire $19.1 billion that was improperly paid in
fiscal 1998 ... has been lost forever, including, I reckon, some of that
$984 million that you said was already returned by Defense contractors.
I doubt the situation is as bad as you and the General Accounting Office
imply, since the nine agencies reported this amount. The GAO didn't exactly
ferret it out of their books.
I enjoyed the recent column about waste. I have been in Washington 40 years,
in and out of government, and I am expert in information technology and
procurement. Waste is everywhere. Many large IT jobs fail. No one seems
to understand or care or has the power to do anything.
Many people are lazy. Not a single reporter in America can stand up without
notes and talk intelligently about federal procurement for a half hour.
We think it would benefit everyone if every 10 years one had to swap jobs.
Government guys go to industry and vice versa. The White House has a very
limited program for this, but I am talking about thousands of people. You
learn a vast amount on both sides.