Chris Edwards

Occasional episodes of government mismanagement explode into big scandals, such as the General Services Administration’s party in Las Vegas that wasted more than $800,000.

Other waste gets flagged by auditors but generally goes unnoticed. I came across this new Inspector General (IG) report revealing $1 million of waste at the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA). Unlike the GSA scandal, it included no photos of bureaucrats in bathtubs, so you probably won’t see it on the cable news.

Still, the BIA episode revealed many standard elements of federal waste. According to the IG, the episode included:

  • A Politician Seeking Something: Then Senator Byron Dorgan (D-ND) pressured the BIA to hire more law enforcement officials.
  • An Incompetent Agency: The BIA contracted-out head-hunter activities to a group called the National Native American Law Enforcement Association (NNALEA). The IG says that the BIA “violated federal procurement regulations” a variety of ways, and it was clearly duped by the contractor. The NNALEA “capitalized on the bureau’s failures.”
  • A Contractor Doing Shoddy Work: The applications sent by the NNALEA to the BIA for the law enforcement jobs were of very poor quality. Of the 514 reviewed by the IG, for example, 104 simply didn’t meet the age requirements. All in all, “none” of the applications was of any use to the BIA.
  • A Lack of Personal Responsibility: NNALEA’s leaders generally refused to be interviewed by the IG regarding their failures. And because the IG’s new report came out a couple years after the events took place, the key BIA personnel responsible have moved on, including the then-head of the BIA, Larry Echohawk.

In sum, routine bureaucratic and political factors resulted in the BIA spending $1 million from which taxpayers and the intended recipients received “no benefit,” according to the IG. So no bathtubs on this one, just a run-of-the-mill Beltway boondoggle.


Chris Edwards

Chris Edwards is the director of tax policy studies at the Cato Institute, and editor of www.DownsizingGovernment.org. Before joining Cato, Edwards was a senior economist on the congressional Joint Economic Committee, a manager with PricewaterhouseCoopers, and an economist with the Tax Foundation.

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