Saturday, February 19, 2005

Waste, Fraud, and Abuse...

Coleman Warner reports in T-P about a U.S. Department of Education report that harshly criticizes Orleans Public Schools management..

"Our audit disclosed a significant lack of management controls, which adversely affected Orleans Parish's ability to administer Title I funds," said the Nov. 15 report by the department's office of inspector general.

"Specifically, we concluded that Orleans Parish needs to improve its management controls related to the maintenance and retention of payroll, personnel, and financial records, reviews and approval of transactions charged to Title I, and using competitive bidding practices for significant equipment purchases."

These were not isolated incidents but seemed to indicate decades of incompetence and/or corruption. Let's hope that Superintendent Amato is putting the right people in place to clean up their act..

In that vein, T-P opens the file on Sean O'Keefe's tenure as chancellor of Louisiana State University, Just days before he is to begin his new job, O'Keefe is facing questions about a report that he is being investigated for his use of government airplanes and for allegedly playing "fast and loose" with travel budgets during his three-year tenure as the top administrator at NASA.

The Associated Press quoted anonymous senior NASA officials Thursday as saying that O'Keefe's actions are being probed by the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress. The focus is not fraud, but waste, one NASA official said, characterizing what he said were practices by O'Keefe, who was tapped in December for the LSU job. His final day with NASA was Feb. 11; he is scheduled to begin work Monday on the Baton Rouge campus.

With a little luck, maybe it's just waste.

Ed Anderson of T-P tells us that state officials hope to use a new hotline and a public education campaign to encourage residents to report fraud in government, which costs taxpayers millions of dollars each year.

A key element of the $20,000 "Stamp Out Fraud" drive, devised by the state Department of Labor's Office of Workers' Compensation, is the toll-free hotline -- 1-866-Fraud05 -- for reporting suspected fraudulent activities such as inflated insurance claims, theft of food stamps and bogus bill claims from Medicaid providers.

"We are talking about fraud that costs Louisiana citizens millions of dollars, fraud we cannot afford," Gov. Kathleen Blanco said Tuesday at a news conference announcing the new program. "It increases the cost of government. . . . This will make Louisiana better and more effective stewards of our taxpayers' money."

Is our state doing better, finally reaching a high enough level of vigilance to prevent abuses of taxpayers' money? You tell me. I'd like to hear from you.


jbv's Competitive Edge 


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