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Making Emergency Supplemental Appropriations for the Fiscal Year Ending September 30. 2006

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC


MAKING EMERGENCY SUPPLEMENTAL APPROPRIATIONS FOR THE FISCAL YEAR ENDING SEPTEMBER 30, 2006 --

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, what is the pending business of the Senate?

The PRESIDING OFFICER. The pending business is H.R. 4939.

AMENDMENT NO. 3641, DIVISION XIX, WITHDRAWN

Mr. COBURN. I would resume where we were last night, if I could get recognized on amendment No. 3641, division XIX.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator has that right, to speak to that issue.

Mr. COBURN. I had planned on withdrawing that amendment, but I wish to make one last point. California received $753 million in earmarks last year. This amendment was to eliminate almost $11 million on levee reconstruction. Seventy times that amount went to California in earmarks. That is the problem.

I ask unanimous consent to withdraw this amendment.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.

AMENDMENT NO. 3817, WITHDRAWN

Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, I ask that the pending amendment be set aside and amendment No. 3817 be called up.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Is there objection? Without objection, it is so ordered.

The clerk will report.

The assistant legislative clerk read as follows:

The Senator from Oklahoma [Mr. Coburn] proposes an amendment numbered 3817.

Mr. COBURN. I ask unanimous consent that the reading of the amendment be dispensed with.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.

The amendment is as follows:
(Purpose: To strike a provision relating to the Office of Job Corps)

Strike section 7017 (relating to the Office of Job Corps).

Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, I intend on withdrawing this amendment. I wish to make a few points before I do so.

In the supplemental bill, the Job Corps receives a direction that the Department of Labor can't manage it, can't use the resources to manage it. There are documented errors and documented fraud within it.

Mr. President, section 7017 of the Emergency Supplemental would mandate that Job Corps operate with less accountability. Specifically, the language would make Job Corps the only program out of 100s to be operated out of the Secretary's office with direct contracting authority.

The Office of the Secretary of Labor does not have the staff or resources to effectively manage and conduct oversight on the Job Corps. The language of Section 7017 forbids the Secretary from shifting oversight and management personnel from any other support office in the Department of Labor. Secretary Chao is forbidden to utilize the same oversight and management that every other program normally receives from other support offices within the Department.

Section 7017 ignores recommendations from the Government Accountability Office and the Inspector General that warn against the dangers of waste, fraud, and abuse that will go undetected in the Job Corps program when one office controls all aspects of a contract-drafting, soliciting, bidding, and managing. The incestuous relationship between the contractors who operate the Job Corp program and the program officers operating the program will have no independent oversight to guard against improper payments, improper use of resources, fraudulent performance reporting resulting in fraudulent salary bonuses, and non-compliant accounting and record keeping.

Secretary Chao is trying to clean up the Job Corps program so that it effectively serves low income teenagers and young adults with a residential job training program. The Job Corps program needs accountability. According to the Office of Job Corps, the program failed to have aggressive monitoring of performance data making evaluations of the program's effectiveness unreliable. The Job Corps contractors are reporting misinformation regarding the number of students that successfully graduate or receive GEDs. The contractors fail to report that almost 40 percent of the students who go through the program fail to obtain a GED or diploma. This results in fraudulent bonus increases to the contractor's pay. The program fails to report that the median stay of a student at a Job Corps location is 8 months, while it takes at least 12 months to successfully obtain a GED. The program also fails to accurately report how many students successful receive job placement into the skilled jobs for which the Job Corps is supposed to equip the students. They fail to report that only 5 percent of the graduating students are placed in apprenticeships for skilled jobs. The contractors incorrectly consider job placement in unskilled jobs and the military--(obtainable without a high school education)--as benchmarks for success. This results in fraudulent bonus increases to their pay.

Examples of mismanagement illustrated in past Inspector General Reports include doctoring of program performance resulting in bonus pay, unethical use of resources, lack of cost controls and resource management. These examples makes the point for Secretary Chao--that the Job Corps program is in desperate need for accountability and oversight.

The September 30, 2005 Inspector General report, San Diego Job CORPS Center: Student Attendance and Training Data Overstated, stated that the number of vocational completions was overstated by over 50 percent. Training records did not support that students had completed all the vocation's tasks with an appropriate level of proficiency.

In the March 30, 2005 Inspector General report, Kittrell Job Corps Center: Manipulation of Student Attendance and Training Records, the Inspector General found that Kittrell managers manipulated student attendance and training records to improve the center's reported performance. Reported performance of high school diploma attainment and job placements was also was not reliable. This unreliable data affected Job Corps financially because reimbursed operating expenses and incentive fees paid to contracted center operators are based on reported performance.

In the 2001 independent auditor's report on the schedule of Job Corps expenses for the Turner Job Corps Center, the Inspector General found inadequate controls over payroll processing, that included hiring two instructors without proper credentials and keeping inaccurate records of leave. There was also lack of accountability over inventories of consumable supplies, evidence that the center underreported medical and dental expense, and the purchase of property and equipment that Department of Labor did not approve prior to acquisition.

In the January 31, 2000 report entitled OIG Questions $1.3 Million of Additional Costs Claimed by Contractor Report No. 18-01-013-03-370, the Inspector General found that the contractor Will H. Hall & Son, Inc. received an additional $2,365,622 due to delays at their construction site. The Inspector General found that this contractor failed to substantiate its claim that various events under the Department of Labor's contract constituted compensable construction delays caused by the Department of Labor. Certain amounts claimed were either double counted as both direct and indirect costs, already covered under the original firm fixed-price contract, or based on estimates instead of actual costs incurred.

Section 7017 of the Emergency Supplemental will virtually guarantee that we will see many more examples of waste, fraud and abuse within the Job Corp program. Furthermore, why is the Senate being asked to make a program change to a 40-year-old program within an Emergency Supplemental bill? Why hasn't the Department of Labor been consulted in making this unprecedented move away from accountability? Why hasn't the Appropriations Committee or the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions held a single hearing about this radical change to the Job Corps program?

Due to time constraints and my desire to move Senate business forward, I ask unanimous consent to withdraw my amendment.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.

Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, I yield the floor.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

OFFSETTING FUTURE SPENDING

Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, we are wrapping up the debate. It is finished on this bill, and we are going to have votes in the morning.

I think we need to ask some questions. We have a supplemental bill. Regardless of the amount of it, it is here. I think there is a real question in the country, and there should be a real question for us, on why we are doing a supplemental bill on the war which we know is happening, and also on projects associated with Katrina and Rita that we know are going to come through the authorization and the appropriations process. I think we need to look at that as a Congress and say why are we doing that, and be very honest about why we are doing it.

The second point I would make is, in emergency legislation we have a lot of things that really aren't emergencies. I think we as a body ought to look at that and use self-discipline.

But the third point is, and this is the one I think the American people are asking, we have a bill out here that is going to spend somewhere between $94 billion and $108 billion of taxpayers' money, and there was no attempt whatsoever to offset this spending--nothing. There were attempts on the floor to change it, but there was no attempt to do a rescissions bill. There was no attempt to look at the things where we know there is wasteful spending. There was no attempt to look at some of these things. This is a list of $54 billion in potential rescissions that I bet we could agree on $10 billion or $11 billion of if everybody knew the facts or the details. But we didn't do that. We didn't ask the Appropriations Committee to do that. It was not asked of them to do that. It is not their fault. They weren't asked to do it. That is the question the American people ought to be asking. Where is the oversight to see if everything is running well?

If you ask the American people: Do you think the Federal Government is efficient, there is not going to be 1 or 2 percent that will say yes. If you ask the American people: Do you think we could do it more efficiently for less money, the vast majority of the American people would agree with that. And that is probably true. If you ask Federal employees, they will tell you that, too.

The question is, Why are we not doing it when we are spending money we don't have? We ought to think about this the next time an emergency supplemental comes around. We ought to make an effort to find the offsets, and we ought to work together across party lines to say how do we secure the things we want. Some of those are different. If you are liberal or conservative, you may want different things. But if you are going to secure the future for those programs that help individuals and go a long way in securing what we need to do to make sure people have an honest, even start in this country, things that are valuable in that regard--whether it be the Food Stamp Program or Head Start or something like that--we are going to run out of money for those.

In 9 short years, 81 percent of our budget is going to be consumed by Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and interest. We should have the discipline to start now to make the significant changes that we need to make to be able to handle that emergency that is coming. The real emergency is not right now. The emergency is going to happen starting in 2009.

I just ask that we look at that and think about it. How do we answer to the American public that we didn't try to trim any other type of spending as we spend $104 billion?

With that, I yield the floor.

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