STOPPING WASTE, FRAUD AND ABUSE IN GOVERNMENT SPENDING -- (House of Representatives - February 17, 2005)
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Mr. JINDAL. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentlewoman for the opportunity to speak on such an important topic.
We as Members of the House have several responsibilities. Perhaps one of the most important responsibilities is to be a good steward of the people's money. We have to approve the budget every year, but we need to remember that money comes from the hardworking taxpayers of this great country of ours, and so often I get frustrated when people act as if that money literally grows on trees rather than being paid into our Treasury by people that are struggling to balance their checkbooks, to pay their mortgages, to pay off their debts. We need to be more responsible. The philosophy should not be, if we can get it, then we should spend it. We need to be much more responsible than that.
I would like to share with my colleagues here just a few of the most glaring examples of the waste, fraud, and abuse in our Federal Government. Anybody who thinks that we need to raise taxes to get rid of a portion of our debt or deficit has not paid attention to all the waste that is currently happening in our Federal spending.
I will give my colleagues a few examples. First comes from the National Park Service, and maybe my colleagues have heard of this one before. They spent up to $800,000, that number is not incorrect, $800,000 on an individual outhouse. The Park Service spent $330,000 in design costs, and then they built this particular outhouse at the Delaware Water Gap National Recreational Area with imported wood and $20,000 cobblestone veneers, and that is despite the fact these toilets do not even work in the winter because the facility only has running water 6 months of this year. This is according to ABC News. Think about that. Hundreds of thousands of dollars for an outhouse that only works 6 months a year. No wonder taxpayers are outraged and they demand we do better.
A second example. The Women, Infants and Children program that is designed to serve low-income mothers and their children who are at nutritional risk. Some wonderful successes, and this program achieves some wonderful goals, especially in my home State of Louisiana.
However, the $5 billion program annually does no income verification of its participants. If we did one simple thing, if we simply made sure that those who get WIC are actually eligible for WIC, that the number of participants who have incomes exceeding eligibility levels were properly limited the way we do in the school lunch program, as many as 27 percent of the current participants may not be eligible. That is according to the Los Angeles Daily News. Twenty-seven percent of the participants in what is otherwise a good program may not be eligible if we just enforce our existing rules.
Another example. This comes from an Inspector General's report. The Department of Justice's Inspector General audits of the COPS grant program, again a program that has had some successes, identified more than $1 million in questioned costs and more than $3 million in funds that could have been put to better use.
Also from the same Inspector General at the Department of Justice, in the same year, found nearly $1 million in equipment purchased with grant funds was unavailable for use because the grantees did not properly distribute the equipment. They could not even locate it or had not been trained on how to operate it. That is $1 million of taxpayer dollars spent on equipment that might be needed to enforce laws and bring safety to our communities that is being wasted because they do not know where the equipment is or they have not trained their staff in how to use the equipment.
The Forest Service, another example again from the Inspector General. The Forest Service recently said they could not figure out why they spent $215 million out of a $3.4 billion operating budget, nor why the agency double-counted $45 million of income. They double-counted $45 million of income from other agencies. Think about that. If any of us did that in our private lives, in a business or in our checkbooks, we would probably not only be audited but may even be guilty of charges, and yet here we have our own government doing this, double-counting income, not knowing how they spent $215 million of our money.
I want to spend some time on Medicaid fraud. In 2002, a Wisconsin transportation company repaid $1.6 million to Medicaid for multiple round-trip billings for dead people and people in the hospital. Think about that. They repaid $1.6 million, had to repay that back because it was found out they were billing the Federal program for providing services to dead people.
In my own home State of Louisiana, I had the honor of serving as the Secretary of the Department of Health and Hospitals; and back in 1996 and 1997, we were facing some fairly large budget challenges. As we tried to overcome those challenges, we discovered it was possible to cut hundreds of millions of dollars of spending, even while we improved the quality of health care.
Part of the way we did that was to weed out the rampant fraud and abuse, even though the vast majority of providers, those who needed it the most, a small number of people, abused that program, ended up wasting millions, if not billions, of dollars in Federal taxpayer money.
For example, we also had some challenges with nonemergency transportation providers. There used to be joke in Louisiana that it was sometimes hard to get a
taxi because they would all become nonemergency transportation providers. There were reports of people being taken to shopping and other errands and the State and the Federal Government paying for this as if they were medical visits. We, too, had reports of agencies billing the Federal Government and the State government, providing services to dead patients.
We used to have another joke in our State about dead people voting and being accused of that happening in the past; and I used to say, I do not know if they are voting, but they are certainly getting health care services in our State and we are paying for it. We as taxpayers are paying for it.
We had instances where we had literally providers sending out vans to pick up children after school, and oftentimes they were reputed to have the parents or offer the children candy bars or cigarettes for the parents or maybe $5 to bring those children to these Medicaid mills where they bill again the State and the Federal Government for services they were not even being provided. They would literally run through dozens and dozens of children, billing thousands and thousands of dollars for services that were never rendered.
We had an audiologist that billed the State for services even though he did not own the equipment needed to provide those services. We had one hospital paid even after it had closed its doors, and we could go on and on about these instances of abuse, of waste, of fraud.
Perhaps two of the saddest things about that, and I am proud we did eliminate that, we did get rid of those abuses which saved hundreds of millions of dollars for the taxpayers, even as we improved the quality of health care.
Immunizations went up. Louisiana rankings went up. People got better quality health care. We gave senior citizens more control over health care choices, even as we controlled spending; but there were two lessons that I learned from that.
One, and unfortunately we were reminded of the fact, simply throwing money at the problem is not the solution. Louisiana went from the late 1980s a billion dollar Medicaid program to when we took over almost between a $4.5 billion Medicaid program, spent all of that additional money, almost 70 percent of which came from Federal taxpayers; and yet we still did not improve our health ranking substantially. I think what that proved is simply throwing Federal money at a problem without putting in the right safeguards and accountability, it does not improve the quality of life for the people we were elected to serve, but rather too often wastes taxpayer dollars.
So the first thing we must remember in this Chamber as we are responsible for appropriating the people's money, we are responsible for representing those that elected us here is we must keep a vigilant oversight over these Federal agencies, over these dollars being spent out of this Nation's Capitol, because there is too much of an opportunity for fraud, for waste, and for abuse.
The second lesson that we learned that we also were reminded of was too often there are those that have the attitude that, well, I am simply spending somebody else's money, why are you worried about this. We confronted a provider who had been guilty of cheating the program, admitted he was cheating the program, and he simply said, everybody else was doing it, I thought I should do it as well. I cannot think of a sadder commentary when you think of the real genuine needs we have in this country, the people that truly need help in their health care, when you think of the needs we have to continue to cut people's taxes.
We as an American people pay too much in taxes as it is, and here you have people whose attitude sometimes seems to be, well, that is somebody else's money, as if Federal money grew on trees, as if their taxes were not supporting these Federal programs.
So I congratulate and I thank the gentlewoman for giving us this opportunity to come here and shine a spotlight on the abuses rampant in so many of our Federal programs, to give us an opportunity to remind this Chamber, to remind my colleagues of the importance of eliminating fraud, waste, and abuse.
When we have serious challenges facing our country, when we have the obligation to provide body armor and supplies to our brave men and women in uniform who are defending our freedoms overseas, we have an obligation to strengthen Social Security so that our parents, our grandparents, and our children will all be able to benefit from this program in their retirement age.
When we have got challenges with the number of uninsured in this country, we cannot afford to be wasting billions of dollars of taxpayers' money. It is not right, and it is something that we must put an end to.
I want to thank again the gentlewoman for giving me this opportunity to shine the spotlight on what needs to be done.
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