Letters to the Editor

More on government waste

I read with interest the Bureaucratus column "Waste not, want not" [FCW, Feb. 21].

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 been ma

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.

Michael Srite

Norman, Okla.

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.

Terry Miller


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