Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Accountability Is A Dirty Word

Unless one of you out there has recently won the lottery, I'm going to assume that we all have to live on some sort of budget. That's a foreign concept to the federal government, as these two stories will attest.

Pentagon Blows $43 Million on a Useless Gas Station
U.S. taxpayers footed the bill for a $43 million natural-gas filling station in Afghanistan, a boondoggle that should have cost $500,000 and has virtually no value to average Afghans, the government watchdog for reconstruction in Afghanistan announced Monday.

A Pentagon task force awarded a $3 million contract to build the station in Sheberghan, Afghanistan...
Stop right there. $3M for a gas station?!? What, are the nozzles gold-plated? Does champagne spout from the drinking fountain? GMAFB!
... but ended up spending $12 million in construction costs and $30 million in "overhead" between 2011 and 2014, the Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction (SIGAR) found.
In this case, "overhead" = consulting fees and bribes.
Meanwhile, a similar gas station built in neighboring Pakistan cost $500,000. (emphasis added)
"It's hard to imagine a more outrageous waste of money than building an alternative fuel station in a war-torn country that costs 8,000% more than it should, and is too dangerous for a watchdog to verify whether it is even operational," Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., said in a statement. "Perhaps equally outrageous however, is that the Pentagon has apparently shirked its responsibility to fully account for the taxpayer money that's been wasted...
That the Pentagon "shirked its responsibility to fully account for taxpayer money that's been wasted" is no great surprise.

That a democrat politician is outraged at government waste is a BIG surprise.

Then there's the little matter of pre-planning and feasibility studies.
The compressed-natural gas station was designed to show the viability of tapping the country's natural gas reserves. But the inspector general determined that Pentagon's Task Force for Stability and Business Operations failed to conduct a feasibility study before launching the project.

If they had, the inspector general noted in his report, the Pentagon would have found most Afghans have little use for it. The Pentagon's own contractor stated that converting a car to compressed natural gas costs $700 in Afghanistan. The average annual income there is $690.
So some bright boy or girl in the Pentagon decided that the average Afghani would spend a year's income to convert whatever heap they're driving to natural gas.

Probably the same person or persons responsible for the F-35 boondoggle.

As for accountability - same old story.
John Sopko, special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction (SIGAR), is outraged:

“I have never in my lifetime seen the Department of Defense or any government agency clam up and claim they don’t know anything about a program [TFBSO].

Who’s in charge? Why won’t they talk? We have received more allegations about this program than we have received about any other program in Afghanistan.”

Sopko says that his office has received allegations of criminal activity by the Task Force from former employees, but that no one at the DOD is answering questions:

"It is totally incredible that you now have a ghost program in the Department of Defense. It’s almost like it’s pixie dust.”

In late October, Sopko sent a letter to Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter, demanding to know why no one was answering questions about a Task Force that reported directly to Carter himself.
* crickets *

In a similar story that echoes the themes of poor planning, excessive expenditures, and no accountability, we have this news from obama's Dept. of Energy.
Despite concerns about its costs to taxpayers and effect on a fragile desert environment, the Ivanpah Solar Power Facility was approved by the Obama Department of Energy, cleared regulatory hurdles of the Department of the Interior, Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Wildlife, Fish & Game, S.E.C, I.R.S and others and construction was begun in 2010. The Dept. of Energy granted Ivanpah $1.6 billion in loan guarantees plus as a ‘green-energy’ project it also qualified for and received more than $600 million in federal tax credits!

So proud of this ‘advance’ in power production was President Obama that he routinely heaped praised upon the project as a shining example of America’s clean energy future. In October of 2010, from the future site of the facility, on his weekly radio address the President said, “With projects like this one we’re putting Americans to work producing clean, home-grown American energy.”

Well, Ivanpah is completed, up, running and functional and guess what?

It’s not so “clean” after all AND to add insult to injury, it’s inefficient too!

Turns out Ivanpah uses a lot of fossil fuel, primarily natural gas, to pre-heat water at the top of its towers prior to sunrise and it has massive auxiliary gas boilers that come on ….when there’s cloud cover blocking the sun.

... data from the California Energy Commission shows the plant burned enough natural gas in 2014 — its first year of operation — to emit more than 46,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide. That’s nearly twice the pollution threshold for power plants or factories in California to be required to participate in the state’s cap-and-trade program to reduce carbon emissions.

At the direction of White House then-Interior Secretary Ken Salazar,
expanses of public land were freed up for the plant’s construction despite environmentalist’s concerns about wildlife habitat and the loss of open space. (Imagine if Exxon-Mobile had made a similar land grant request, how do you think that would’ve gone?)

Ivanpah was built on mostly undisturbed public land that was home to desert tortoises, a species threatened with extinction, among other wildlife. Now the whole episode has greenies hopping mad and feeling betrayed.

The facility is cooking birds mid-flight, over 3,500 of them in its first year, according to the Desert Sun.

Biologists discovered scores of desert tortoises during the construction Ivanpah and teams of them gathered more than 175 of the reptiles from the site plus found another 50 tortoise eggs that were later hatched in captivity. In all. $56 million was spent capturing, housing, relocating, and preserving and restoring tortoise habitat elsewhere.

And now for all those billions spent, for all that destroyed pristine desert-scape, dead birds, displaced tortoises and more – the darn thing emits more CO2 than an ordinary power plant would’ve anyway.
On behalf of all us taxpayers struggling to get by on a budget that is hit harder and harder by increasing taxes and government fees (can you say "obamacare"?):
Dear Federal Government,

Please go take a flying leap and f**k yourself.


U.S. Taxpayer


Anonymous said...

Accountability in Government is a completely foreign concept, whether it is city, state, or Federal.
Prime examples: Mullah Obama and Hillary. If they can't dazzle us with their "brilliance", the try to baffle us with their bullshit. And, what is worse is that they expect us to believe us to believe it.

When a baseball team has a crappy season (the Seattle Mariners, for example), they fire the manager, not the bat boy. When a politician is a total failure (like Mullah Obama, John Kerry-Heinz, or Hillary Clinton, to name just three) they get reelected, given a Cabinet post with a high salary, an unlimited expense account and his own private, taxpayer funded airplane, or run for President.

There is something vastly wrong with this picture.


Old NFO said...

It's always about the money... Problem is it's damn near impossible to actually 'follow' it inside .gov... sigh

Well Seasoned Fool said...

Make the managers who approved it go operate it for a year.

CenTexTim said...

Scottie - two words: TERM LIMITS!!!

NFO - as a former businessman (and now a retiree on a limited budget) I'm used to keeping close track of every single dollar. I don't get why the govt can't. Maybe it IS time for a businessperson to move into the White House...

WSF - I'd love to see legislation passed that makes govt employees - including congresscritters - live by the same rules as the rest of us. It's a version of 'eat your own dog food.'