As the federal government deals with budget cuts from the sequester, here’s a cut that everyone can agree on.
The federal government is paying nearly $900,000 in bank maintenance fees for accounts that no longer have any money in them.
Call it money for nothing. Or more cynically: Your federal government at work.
The Government Acountability Office pointed out the problem last year, and President Obama ordered agencies to expedite closing the accounts, which were set up in a federal depository as conduits for grants.
The Washington Post reports that some agencies have had remarkable success doing so — the National Park Service, for example, has closed all of its accounts.
But 13,712 empty accounts still remain open across a wide range of federal agencies.
“It’s just lack of attention to detail. And poor management,” said Thomas A. Schatz, head of Citizens Against Government Waste, a budget watchdog group. “And, clearly, the fact that no one gets penalized for paying money to keep the accounts open.”
In his account, Post reporter David A. Fahrenthold cited that famous example of government waste: the Pentagon’s $435 hammer.
“But at least, in that case, it got a hammer,” he wrote.
Each account costs $65 a year, and it all adds up. Except for what’s actually in those accounts.
Federal officials explained that it’s not a matter of simply making a phone call or sending a letter. The accounts also exist to provide for financial audits of grant recipients, and sometimes that takes time.
Nevertheless the fact is some agencies have done a quick job of following the president’s instructions dating from last year, while others still have a major backlog.
And using federal paperwork requirements as an excuse is hardly going to resonate with those Americans who still pay income tax. Particularly since they recently sent off their tax forms replete with confounding demands for documentation. And for the most part, they completed the job on deadline.