STATE DEPARTMENT AUDITOR: Uhm, Any of You Guys See $6 Billion Lying Around Somewhere?

But, hey: what’s $ 6 billion among friends?

The State Department has no idea what happened to $ 6 billion used to pay its contractors.

In a special “management alert” made public Thursday, the State Department’s Inspector General Steve Linick warned “significant financial risk and a lack of internal control at the department has led to billions of unaccounted dollars over the last six years.

The alert was just the latest example of the federal government’s continued struggle with oversight over its outside contractors.

The lack of oversight “exposes the department to significant financial risk,” the auditor said. “It creates conditions conducive to fraud, as corrupt individuals may attempt to conceal evidence of illicit behavior by omitting key documents from the contract file. It impairs the ability of the Department to take effective and timely action to protect its interests, and, in tum, those of taxpayers.”

In the memo, the IG detailed “repeated examples of poor contract file administration.” For instance, a recent investigation of the closeout process for contracts supporting the mission in Iraq, showed that auditors couldn’t find 33 of the 115 contract files totaling about $ 2.1 billion. Of the remaining 82 files, auditors said 48 contained insufficient documents required by federal law.

…Before Linick took office last fall, the State Department had been without an inspector general position for five years—the longest IG vacancy in the government’s history, as noted in The Washington Post.

By contrast, the Air Force — in order to save just $ 3.5 billion over five years — slashed the invaluable A-10 Warthog (pictured above) program.

Priorities: for Democrats, waste, fraud and abuse trumps protecting America’s warriors.

Hat tip: BB.

Doug Ross @ Journal

DEMOCRAT LAWMAKER: Vermont’s single-payer health care system will destroy the state

Guest post by Jon Street

BURLINGTON, Vt. – In 2011, while the rest of America argued the merits of the president’s Affordable Care Act, Vermont jumped the progressive curve, promising to launch the nation’s first health single-payer system, in which state government pays providers to care for all residents.

Now, even Democrats say that plan, called Green Mountain Care, isn’t ready for its proposed 2017 rollout, and Rep. Jim Condon told Vermont Watchdog it’s time for Gov. Peter Shumlin to shelve the ambitious plan immediately.

“The deadlines for proposing financing have been missed two years in a row now, so to me that’s very disappointing. It’s becoming clearer and clearer that there is no financing plan,” Condon told Vermont Watchdog.

As Vermont Watchdog reported, an independent report by the Washington, D.C.-based consulting firm Avalere Health concluded that the costs of Green Mountain Care would require Vermont to raise tax revenue roughly equal to the state’s tax collections from all sources today.

Condon, a Democrat from Colchester, said he thinks a single-payer system in Vermont would “cost more” than a couple of previous estimates. Those estimates pegged the cost for single-payer at anywhere from $ 1.6 billion to $ 2.2 billion annually.

“It’s a government program [so] I think it’s going to cost more than that. Given that, I think it would be in the best interest of Vermonters to redirect our energies away from single-payer health care to trying to improve the system we’re in now,” Condon added.

Condon was one of three “Blue Dog Democrats” to vote against Act 48, the legislation establishing the transition to a single-payer health care system. According to Act 48, Green Mountain Care cannot have any negative implications for Vermont’s economy. But Condon said he’s not aware of any other way to pay for it outside of federal funding or raising taxes. And for that reason, Condon said he’s urging Gov. Shumlin not to seek a waiver from Obamacare, which the state must obtain from the federal government in order for single-payer to be implemented.

“They wouldn’t be able to ask for [the Obamacare waiver] until the economic analysis is done, and we cannot do an economic analysis until we have a financing plan. So, right now I suppose it’s in limbo,” he said.

In that limbo, both the administration and lawmakers continue to allocate state resources in hopes the state will still be able to provide health care to of all its residents by Jan. 2017, something Condon said is a “waste of resources at this point. Just to submit an application for a waiver from the Affordable Care Act is probably going to take half a year to determine, in and of itself.”

“There are people working on it [who] could be doing other things,” he added.

How many people are working on Green Mountain Care is unclear. Lt. Gov. Phil Scott, a Republican, said during an interview with Vermont Watchdog last week that he’s not even sure who exactly is working on the implementation of single-payer.

“I know we have a lot of people who are working on the exchange. I know we have the Green Mountain Care Board that is working on cost controls. But I’m still not sure who is working on the single-payer initiative,” Scott said.

Sen. Bobby Starr, another Democrat who voted against Act 48, told Vermont Watchdog in January there’s “no way” single-payer can work without new taxes. Indeed, no lawmaker has introduced any bill that would finance single-payer health care without also raising taxes.

One bill, introduced by Sen. Peter Galbraith (D-Windham), would impose a 13-percent payroll tax (11 percent on employers and 2-percent on employees) as well as a 10-percent tax on non-wage income. A second bill, also introduced by Galbraith, would phase in single-payer financing beginning in 2015 with a “transitional fund.” Galbraith’s second proposal would levy a 1.5-percent self employment tax increase in addition to reserving 7.7 percent of state income taxes for single-payer.


 

Contact Jon Street at jstreet@watchdog.org and find him on Twitter @JonStreet.

Doug Ross @ Journal

Epicenter Update: 1) Abbas at White House rejects Israel as “Jewish State.” 2) Kerry says Israel wrong to insist on “Jewish state” recognition.” 3) Iraqi oil production surges to highest level in 30 years.

Palestinian Chairman Mahmoud Abbas met with President Obama today at the White House.

Palestinian Chairman Mahmoud Abbas met with President Obama today at the White House.

(Washington, D.C.) — Here’s a snapshot of some of the most important developments in the epicenter in recent days.

SECRETARY KERRY SAYS ISRAEL WRONG TO INSIST THE PALESTINIANS RECOGNIZE ISRAEL AS A “JEWISH STATE” — “In his appearance before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs on March 13, 2014, Secretary of State John Kerry, convener, main proponent, and mediator of the Israeli-Palestinian negotiating process, found it necessary to make a surprisingly one-sided comment and prejudgment on one of the central and most delicate issues on the negotiating table – Israel’s basic and principled requirement of recognition of Israel as the nation state of the Jewish People,” notes Israeli Ambassador Alan Baker, who helped craft the Olso Accords, in an analysis for the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. “Kerry opined that he views Israel’s position ‘as a mistake,’ considering that the ‘Jewish State’ issue was ‘sufficiently addressed by UN General Assembly Resolution 181 of 1947, which recommended the establishment of independent Arab and Jewish states in Palestine.’ He said there are ‘more than 30–40 mentions of a ‘Jewish state’ in the resolution, and added that the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat ‘confirmed that he agreed it [Israel] would be a Jewish state’ in 1988 and in 2004. It would appear that once again, as with previous one-sided and pre-judgmental statements, Secretary Kerry has either been ill-advised or is deliberately engaged in an effort to neutralize the ‘Jewish State’ issue in the current negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. He is doing so by attempting to determine that the question of Palestinian support for a Jewish state was already resolved by PLO leader Yasser Arafat in 1988, and is therefore redundant and unnecessary…..”

PALESTINIAN LEADER ABBAS AT WHITE HOUSE AGAIN REJECTS ISRAEL AS “JEWISH STATE” — “U.S. President Barack Obama on Monday told Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas that he would have to make tough political decisions and take ‘risks’ for peace, as would Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu,” reported the Times of Israel. “Abbas, for his part, reiterated his rejection of Israel’s demand that its status as a Jewish state be enshrined in a future peace accord, asserting that previous Palestinian recognition of Israel was sufficient….Speaking to Netanyahu’s demand that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state, Abbas said that ‘since 1988 and into 1993, we have been extending our hands to our Israeli neighbors so that we can reach a fair and lasting peace to this problem. Since 1988, we have recognized international legitimacy resolutions and this was a very courageous step on the part of the Palestinian leadership. And in 1993, we recognized the State of Israel.’”

IRAQI OIL PRODUCTION SURGES TO HIGHEST LEVEL IN 30 YEARS – “Iraq’s oil production surged to its highest level in over 30 years last month, surprising skeptics of the country’s efforts to restore its oil industry after decades of war and neglect,” reports the Wall Street Journal. “In its monthly oil report published Friday, the International Energy Agency said Iraq’s oil output jumped by half a million barrels a day in February to average 3.6 million barrels a day. The country hasn’t pumped that much oil since 1979, when Saddam Hussein rose to power. The Iraqi output surge came as the IEA also predicted oil supply from the U.S. and Canada would continue its “relentless” increase this year, easing concerns that higher global demand and geopolitical issues caused by the crisis in Ukraine could push oil prices upward….Iraq’s oil minister said in December the country would target oil production of 4.1 million barrels a day this year. New fields coming on stream are expected to add 500,000 barrels a day of output in the next few months. Last month’s surprise jump in oil production came as a major bottleneck at Iraq’s southern export terminal Basra was finally removed. Shipments of oil from the country rose to 2.8 million barrels a day in February, up by 600,000 barrels a day compared with a year ago.”

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