To return to a point I’ve been hammering lately: this bloated government is stupid drunk on the trillions of dollars it has imbibed. There are far too many departments and agencies where outrageous abuse goes on for years before inspectors catch up with it. The results of these inspections are kept secret from taxpayers until someone – usually Fox News, or some other conservative media organization – drags it out into the open with a Freedom of Information Act request. Not coincidentally, the Obama Administration rewrote the Freedom of Information Act on the down-low in 2009, to make it easier to thwart potentially embarrassing document requests.
Today’s buried nugget of outrage comes courtesy of the Washington Examiner, which used a FOIA request to learn that “Postal employees have spent thousands of taxpayer dollars on gambling, bills, and other personal expenses, according to a series of reports by the U.S. Postal Service inspector general.”
One manager, who was not identified in the report, used her travel card to withdraw $32,000 in cash so she could gamble, according to the inspector general.
The woman told investigators that it was “difficult to say” why she used the government card, but indicated the withdrawals were made after she reached her credit limit on her personal cards.
The manager also used her government card on rental cars, gas, parking and tolls for personal use, and said a fast-lane transponder “fell into her purse” out of a USPS car she was driving.
The same manager’s administrative assistant told investigators she was frequently out of the office, didn’t say where she would be and was difficult to reach when she was away.
The assistant was also put in “an awkward position” by being made to drive the manager to pick up rental cars for personal use, the assistant said.
Between cash advances for gambling, rental cars and other personal expenses, the manager spent $45,000, which she had paid back by February 2010.
This individual also billed taxpayers for $24,000 worth of bogus sick days, which puts her well behind the icon of Derp Government, EPA “climate change expert” John C. Beale, who managed to avoid showing for work for years on end while absorbing a lavish salary and benefits, deflecting questions about his constant absence by claiming to be a secret agent running CIA operations in Pakistan. Beale ended up getting a 32-month prison sentence, while the high-rolling Postal Service employee decided to take “early retirement” after being told to repay the money she took.
This wasn’t the only Postal Service employee who decided it would be a good idea to pull cash for gambling with her government credit card. Another plunked down $2,400 in taxpayer loot at the casinos, tried claiming she used the government card by accident, then admitted she tapped her expense account because “she needed the money to go to the casino and she goes to the casinos too much.” According to the IG report, she did eventually repay the money, and ended up getting fired.
Other employees paid themselves exorbitant salaries, racked up crazy expenses, used government accounts to cover personal needs, falsely claimed to have repaid cash advances, faked what would have been legitimate travel, and billed the USPS for excessive mileage. The “oops, I used my government credit card by accident!” excuse came up quite a bit.
What’s really disturbing about this long string of government-abuse stories, stretching all the way back to those wild money-no-object GAO conferences in Vegas, is that nobody in charge was able to detect or stop the abuses. The antics chronicled in the Post Office inspector general report stretch over months and years. It’s good that inspectors eventually catch up with so many offenders, but it takes them a long time, and the public is not always appraised of the results. Washington is teeming with brigades of federal employees, but somehow there’s no management time available to perform the most basic oversight functions that even a small private company would expect. Of course, private companies can’t just hand taxpayers a bill for their cost overruns.