$27 million in Porkulus money spent in nonexistent zip codes

posted at 9:30 am on January 4, 2010 by Ed Morrissey

Two months ago, we found out that over six billion dollars in Porkulus funds got credited as spent in false Congressional districts.  Now the same group that first made that discovery has found millions of dollars disappearing into nonexistent zip codes as well (via Instapundit):

Closer examination of the latest recovery.gov report for New Mexico shows hundreds of thousands of dollars sent to and credited with creating jobs in zip codes that do not exist in New Mexico or anywhere else. Moreover, funds reported as being spent in New Mexico were given zip codes corresponding to areas in Washington and Oregon.

The recovery.gov site reports that $373,874 was spent in zip code 97052. Unfortunately, this expenditure created zip jobs. But $36,218 was credited with creating 5 jobs in zip code 87258. A cool hundred grand went into zip code 86705, but didn’t result in even one person finding work.

None of these zip codes exist in New Mexico, or anywhere else, for that matter.

The recovery.gov report also credits New Mexico with $131,139, though the zip codes receiving these funds (but creating no jobs) are in fact located in DuPont, Washington, Richland, Washington, and Gales Creek, Oregon.

These errors were found by checking the zip codes reported at recovery.gov against the United States Postal Service’s on-line zip code locator. Coming on top of our discovery of millions of dollars reportedly going to ten phantom New Mexico Congressional Districts, this latest discovery confirms that the data released by the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board, at least for New Mexico, contains serious errors. All told, we have found over $27 million dollars that has been reported as going to either nonexistent Congressional districts or nonexistent zip codes.

As before, what we have here is incompetent database management.  In the earlier case, which was much more significant in terms of dollar allocation, projects got credited to phantom Congressional districts.  A competent database administrator would have set up the data-entry processes to check for legitimate CDs on the front end, which would have avoided the problem.  Watchdog.org notes that Recovery.gov still has not corrected that problem, instead dumping the $6.4 billion in Porkulus spending into an “indeterminate” category rather than fixing the data.

This should have been an easier problem to avoid.  The US Postal Service offers a website to check zip codes for accuracy, but even easier, most database programs have tables built into them for checking zip codes and proper city and state references. It’s the kind of process check that exists in every online-shopping website, which prompts the question as to why the government couldn’t figure out its own zip code system for its own database.  Even that doesn’t address how legitimate zip codes from one state got credited to others, such as New Mexico.

For the millions of dollars spent on building the Recovery.gov website, we should have expected a professional database with industry-standard competence.  Instead, we got a lesson as to why tasks that can be handled by the private sector should be left to it.


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Criminals…

Dopenstrange on January 4, 2010 at 11:36 AM

Color me not surprised

tanvec on January 4, 2010 at 11:41 AM

We need to waterboard whomever cashed those checks. And follow the money trail up to the top.

SteelGuy on January 4, 2010 at 11:57 AM

I could have developed a better database for half of that $18 million! Heck, I’d have done it for 10% of that!

KS Rex on January 4, 2010 at 12:03 PM

I think that you’re being a bit gracious in interchanging fraud with incompetence, Ed. But, thanks for keeping the info flowing.

JCred on January 4, 2010 at 12:07 PM

So the Obama administration can’t even write a simple website to track their spending without screwing it up.

Wow – I can’t wait to have these people in charge of my healthcare!

18-1 on January 4, 2010 at 12:08 PM

So the Obama administration can’t even write a simple website to track their spending without screwing it up.

Wow – I can’t wait to have these people in charge of my healthcare!

18-1 on January 4, 2010 at 12:08 PM

Given the mess that they made of their campaign contributions website in 2008, is anybody surprised?

They didn’t bother with even the simplest of checks to ensure that the people donating even existed.

MarkTheGreat on January 4, 2010 at 12:12 PM

A question for Ed or fellow HA readers:

Ed, you seem to suggest that all of this is just incompetence. Is it possible that some of this is criminal? could any of this be attempts to cover up transfers of taxpayer cash to individuals or groups with political connections for which no work or services were rendered?

Ordinary American on January 4, 2010 at 12:17 PM

I could have developed a better database for half of that $18 million! Heck, I’d have done it for 10% of that!

KS Rex on January 4, 2010 at 12:03 PM

..I’ll see your 10% of 18 million and “raise you” 10% of your 10% — which is about what it should have cost.

VoyskaPVO on January 4, 2010 at 12:26 PM

non-existent states, non-existent districts, and now non-existent zip codes. what’s really non-existent in this administration is jobs.

stormin1961 on January 4, 2010 at 12:33 PM

Sheesh, again?

When Senator Obama promised American voters more “transparency” should he be given the Presidency, little did anyone – even his fiercest critics – realize he meant that he’d confiscate trillions of our tax dollars & make ‘em vanish into thin air into non-existent congressional districts & invisible zip codes.

So what’s next? Can we expect the Obama Administration to report they’ve allocated yet more of those elusive ‘stimulus funds’ to fix spectral potholes in Atlantis & build imaginary frisbee parks in Camelot?

leilani on January 4, 2010 at 1:11 PM

@stormin1961:

what’s really non-existent in this administration is jobs.

Particularly administration jobs filled by qualified accountants, it would seem.

leilani on January 4, 2010 at 1:14 PM

Delivery to a Mr. Ed from a Mr. Occam. Handle carefully as the label says it is sharp.

Immolate on January 4, 2010 at 1:30 PM

Given the mess that they made of their campaign contributions website in 2008, is anybody surprised?

They didn’t bother with even the simplest of checks to ensure that the people donating even existed.

MarkTheGreat on January 4, 2010 at 12:12 PM

And in both instances…it has worked out in their ledger’s favor. Stupidity by design, methinks.

selias on January 4, 2010 at 1:48 PM

As before, what we have here is incompetent database management.

I agree with JCred, Ed, you’re being too generous here.

The much more likely answer is that the money was spent fraudulently, and the fake zip codes were used because they didn’t want people searching for expenditures in their area, and then trying to find them.

I.E. they didn’t want the press looking in to all the expenditures in local zip codes (for a story on “How the Stimulus is affecting Us”), and then discovering that money credited to the area wasn’t actually spent there.

I’m sure there’s a lot of incompetence there, too. This is, after all, the government. But you ignore the probability of fraud at your peril.

Greg Q on January 4, 2010 at 2:29 PM

You are looking at how ObamaCare will be managed…

d1carter on January 4, 2010 at 3:16 PM

Really, “Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board”? RAT Board? Really?

I suppose it is a board, but as far as transparency, accountability, or for that matter recovery, I think a paraphrase of George Bernard Shaw is in order: Not accountable, not transparent, filled with rats.

raybury on January 4, 2010 at 5:07 PM

Mmmm… I wonder where the money went?

Wonder when there will be an investigation?

RedbonePro on January 4, 2010 at 5:47 PM

Comment pages: 1 2