SBA May Not Be Pursuing Loan Repayments of $72B
April 24, 2023
The Small Business Administration sponsored the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program during the pandemic to help small businesses get temporary loans to help weather tough times. Now, the SBA Inspector General is investigating whether the SBA is not trying to collect on loans under $100,000, which amounts to $72 billion.
Despite clearly telling borrowers the loans awarded would have to be repaid, “the SBA has faced growing concerns about its ability to collect the full sums it is owed,” The Washington Post reported.
Now there is speculation that the agency has stopped pursuing collections on smaller loans, with SBA Inspector General investigating the up to $72 billion.
This comes on the heels of countless potentially fraudulent loans from both the EIDL and Paycheck Protection Programs, which according to The Post have cost “tens of billions of dollars.” The latest estimate of just PPP fraud coming in at $80 billion.
Some in Congress are pushing for more oversight, with Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA), ranking member of the Small Business Committee, writing a letter to the SBA demanding information about the EIDL Program and the SBA potentially forgoing collections of smaller EIDL loans.
A spokesperson for the SBA told The Washington Post that official agency policy “continues to be to collect on every loan.”
Those that borrowed EIDL loans knew that they were obligated to pay these loans back, and the SBA needs to aggressively pursue collection of these repayments to ensure taxpayers don’t take the hit for delinquent payments.
Seattle Mayor Pays Consultant $280K to Lobby for Rail Project
April 25, 2023
Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell recently used taxpayers’ money to pay a consultant $280,000 “to provide advice and political support” for his light rail projects, according to The Seattle Times.
In February 2022, The Times reported that a no bid contract was awarded to Tim Ceis, a former deputy mayor of Seattle, to lobby for Mayor Harrell’s preferred light rail projects, including shifting a future underground stop away from Union Station in the Chinatown International District.
The initial contract stipulated that Ceis was hired to provide “positive board-level relationships that support Seattle’s goals for WSBLE and enable effective decision-making at the [Sound Transit] board,” and that contract was later extended through April 2023.
When interviewed by The Seattle Times, Harrell boasted about Ceis’ effectiveness, saying, “It’s been a great investment for the city” and touting Ceis’ connections that helped move the project forward. His opponents, however, accused him on Twitterof hiring Ceis to broker “a backroom deal” and “push a false media narrative.”
This is not the first time a Seattle mayor has used tax dollars to hire a consultant to lobby for their project. In 2018, then Mayor Jenny Durkan paid Anne Fennessy, a friend and business associate, $720,000 to lobby for her light rail projects.
While it’s appropriate for mayors to fight vigorously to implement the policy they believe is in their constituents’ best interest, using taxpayers money to hire a consultant to lobby for them is insulting to community groups and constituents that are trying to weigh in, but can’t afford a lobbyist of their own.
Biden’s Treasury Wants a $4B Budget Increase
April 26, 2023
In his 2024 Budget Request, President Joe Biden is asking Congress to approve a $4 billion raise for his Treasury Department to finance hordes of new workers and overhaul tax collections, according to the Treasury Congressional Budget Justification.
In total, the Treasury wants appropriations of $20.3 billion for 2024, a 23% increase from $16.4 billion in 2023. They are asking for a $2.6 billion increase in their domestic budget, and a $1.7 billion increase in their international budget. These new numbers also don’t include the $80 billion the Internal Revenue Service is receiving from the Inflation Reduction Act.
Domestically, the IRS wants to use the additional funds to invest in an expanded workforce. The Treasury wants to add about 15,000 full time employees, a 15% percent increase from 2023. Also, the Treasury aims “to improve tax compliance by finally pursuing wealthy and corporate tax evaders who too often avoid paying taxes owed.”
Other domestic priorities include $341 million to expand access to credit to underserved communities, $215 million to increase cybersecurity, and $332 million to “restore critical agency capacity.”
Internationally, the budget increase will go largely toward “monitoring and disrupting corruption, money laundering, terrorist financing; and the use of the financial system by malicious actors domestically and abroad.” This also includes financial aid to Ukraine and the enforcement of sanctions on Russia.
While Congress still has to approve this funding, these ambitious budget requests to increase both funding and personnel show a disconcerting effort by the Biden Administration to increase the size and scope of government.
Throwback Thursday: Officials Received Chauffeur Service Worth Millions
April 27, 2023
In the 1980s, various federal agencies billed taxpayers $3.4 million – $12.4 million in 2023 dollars – to shuttle 190 government officials to and from their offices with a door-to-door chauffeur service.
Sen. William Proxmire, a Democrat from Wisconsin, awarded these officials his Golden Fleece Award for this wasteful spending.
For this award, Proxmire surveyed officials from multiple agencies about their use of private chauffeurs, and found that three agencies were especially guilty: the Department of Defense, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the Central Intelligence Agency.
The DOD had 60 officials eligible for the service, the most of any agency. HUD boasted the most expensive automobile of any agency at $9,588 ($35,000 in 2023 dollars), twice as much as the average car cost. Still, the CIA racked up the most overtime, with the CIA director’s chauffeur earning more in overtime pay than he did in his base salary.
Technically, only cabinet level officials were allowed to take advantage of the chauffeur service, with other officials allowed to use chauffeurs on official business, but not to commute to work. Regardless, many claimed excuses, with one official stating the service “enables [him] to conserve [his] valuable time and be more productive,” while another simply stated that his use of a government chauffeured automobile was “in the government’s interest”.
The DOJ’s Office of Legal Counsel, however, found these and many other such excuses to be invalid.
The bureaucrats that made excuses to take advantage of the program left taxpayers with the bill for their commute. Proxmire’s recommendation for these officials? “Let them ride the bus to work to study how effective our transportation system is.”
South Carolina Made $3.5B Accounting Error
April 28, 2023
State lawmakers in South Carolina are trying to get to the bottom of a $3.5 billion accounting error that has been attributed to an “admittedly complex mapping problem,” according to The Associated Press.
Lawmakers on a state senate finance subcommittee grilled the state’s Comptroller General, Richard Eckstrom, for several hours last February, but are still not satisfied with his answers. Republican Sen. Larry Grooms noted multiple contradictions in the testimony, and told The AP, “a $3.5 billion error is no small error. And to treat it as such does a disservice to the people of our state who have to have confidence in their elected officials.”
Mismanagement of South Carolina’s financial reports has been an issue for decades. A 2007 coding error and subsequent migration to a new system in 2011 resulted in double counting of state funds sent to colleges and universities.
The inaccuracies have continued to compound, with the total overstatement of funds growing to $1.3 billion in 2017, and that number has since nearly tripled to $3.5 billion as more funds were sent to universities throughout the pandemic.
While these errors didn’t affect the available cash on hand for the state to make expenditures, bond rating agencies consider these financial reports to assign grades, and some lawmakers expressed concern that these errors would affect the state’s bond ratings in the future.
A Fortune 500 company would likely be fined by a regulatory agency or go out of business if it had an error of this magnitude on its books for decades. In government, the taxpayers pay the price for these egregious mistakes.
The #WasteOfTheDay is presented by the forensic auditors at OpenTheBooks.com.