Gambling monkeys, massages for rabbits, and paid leave for “underperforming or even engaging in criminal mischief” – these are some of the projects highlighted in Senator Tom Coburn’s (R-OK) annual list of wasteful government projects.
The Senator’s report, Wastebook 2014: What Washington doesn’t want you to read, is being released today on the heels of news that came earlier this week from the Government Accountability Office that roughly $775 million was spent by the government on more than 57,000 employees who were on paid administrative leave for more than a month. So it isn’t surprising then that the very first item listed in Coburn’s Wastebook is one that takes issue with administrative leave for federal workers.
According to Wastebook:
While administrative leave is intended to be used sparingly for limited periods of time, for many it has become a paid vacation lasting months and even years. More than 1,000 federal employees were on paid leave for at least six months and hundreds were given paid absences from work for a year or more. Nearly 60,000 federal employees received paid leave for an entire month or more over a two year period in addition to vacation time and paid holidays.
Some put on administration leave in 2014 engaged in nefarious and illegal behaviors that undermine the very confidence in our government.
It then cites some specific examples of how paid leave was used by agencies:
An office within the most controversial government agency, the IRS, used its power to harass and impede political opposition for years and the director avoided taking any responsibility and also avoided any real discipline by being put on paid leave for months before retiring with a generous government pension. The CIA’s chief of Iran operations was put on paid administrative leave for creating “an abusive and hostile work environment that put a crucial division in disarray.” A Secret Service agent responsible for protecting the President on an overseas trip was put on leave after being found passed out in a hotel hallway after a late night of partying. The former acting Inspector General (IG) at the Department of Homeland Security was placed on administrative leave in April after a bipartisan Senate investigation found he had “jeopardized the independence” of the IG’s office. Two senior officials within the IG office of the Department of Commerce were placed on paid administrative leave after threatening subordinates with negative performance reviews unless they signed “agreements not to disparage” the office upon leaving.
Wastebook 2014 collectively identifies $25 billion in what Coburn says are blatantly wasteful government projects. Examples of other items highlighted include:
- Coast guard party patrols – $100,000
- Watching grass grow – $10,000
- State department tweets @ terrorists – $3 million
- Swedish massages for rabbits – $387,000
- Mountain lions on a treadmill – $856,000
- Synchronized swimming for sea monkeys – $50,000
- Pentagon to destroy $16 billion in unused ammunition — $1 billion
- Scientists hope monkey gambling unlocks secrets of free will –$171,000
- Rich and famous rent out their luxury pads tax free – $10 million
- Studying “hangry” spouses stabbing voodoo dolls – $331,000
- Promoting U.S. culture around the globe with nose flutists – $90 million
“With no one watching over the vast bureaucracy, the problem is not just what Washington isn’t doing, but what it is doing.” Dr. Coburn said. “Only someone with too much of someone else’s money and not enough accountability for how it was being spent could come up some of these projects.”
“What I have learned from these experiences is Washington will never change itself. But even if the politicians won’t stop stupid spending, taxpayers always have the last word. As you read through the entries presented in this report, ask yourself: Is each of these a true national priority or could the money have been better spent on a more urgent need or not spent at all in order to reduce the burden of debt being left to be paid off by our children and grandchildren?”