By this point, some of you may have grown tired of talking about how incompetent the Environmental Protection Agency is, so what say we switch topics and discuss how they are corrupt and eager to waste your money. No matter how many stories we see in the news about government agencies burning up taxpayer dollars on lavish trips or expensive baubles the result is always the same. Executives express outrage, vow to get to the bottom of the mess and then the matter is dropped with everyone going back to business as usual. This pattern seems to be repeating at the EPA this week as the the Washington Times reveals that the agency’s taste in office furniture is, shall we say, a bit on the high end.
The Environmental Protection Agency over the past decade has spent a whopping $92.4 million to purchase, rent, install and store office furniture ranging from fancy hickory chairs and a hexagonal wooden table, worth thousands of dollars each, to a simple drawer to store pencils that cost $813.57.
The furniture shopping sprees equaled about $6,000 for every one of the agency’s 15,492 employees, according to federal spending data made public by the government watchdog OpenTheBooks.com.
Six thousand dollars per employee on office furniture? I’m not sure if all the furniture in my living room and kitchen combined cost that much. But I’m sure there must be more to see here.
Most of the agency’s contracts are with Michigan-based retailer Herman Miller Inc. According to the contracts, the EPA spent $48.4 million on furnishings from the retailer known for its high-end, modern furniture designs.
Just one of Herman Miller’s “Aeron” office chairs retails for nearly $730 on the store’s website. The EPA has spent tens of thousands of dollars to purchase and install those types of chairs in its offices.
The agency also paid another high-end retailer, Knoll Inc., nearly $5 million for furnishings. Knoll is known for its specialized modern furnishings, and 40 of its designs are on permanent display in the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
You know, the EPA actually has a hotline straight to their Inspector General’s office where people can report waste, fraud and abuse at the agency. Did nobody think to ring them up? They even provide a helpful mission statement which clearly defines not only their goals in guarding the public purse, but helps you identify wasteful practices.
What is Waste
It is the extravagant, careless, or needless expenditure of Government funds, or the consumption of Government property, that results from deficient practices, systems, controls, or decisions. The term also includes improper practices not involving prosecutable fraud.
Was there not a single worker who could recognize that more than $700 for an office chair might be seen as a bit over the top? Assuming that there are real human beings working there who have to furnish their own homes on a budget, it seems as if one of them might have been able to stand up and suggest that they check out Office Depot if they needed something for the workers to sit on. At just a brief glance, they offer the Brenton Studio Briessa Mid-Back Vinyl Chair (which is definitely nicer than the one in my office, by the way) for $129. And that’s retail. If you come to them with a government contract buying them in bulk I assure you that you could get the price down below one hundred bucks.
Still, it’s been a known fact for years that the EPA is not only wasteful with taxpayer money, but flat out corrupt. A study in 2014 turned up more cases of flushing away your money than you could shake a stick at.
In one case, an employee was getting paid for one or two years after moving to a retirement home, where the employee allegedly did not work. When an investigation began, the worker was simply placed on sick leave.
In another case, an employee with multiple-sclerosis was allowed to work at home for the last 20 years. However, for the past five years, she allegedly produced no work — though she was paid roughly $600,000. She retired after an investigation.
In yet another case, an employee was accused of viewing pornography for two-to-six hours a day since 2010. An IG probe found the worker had 7,000 pornographic files on his EPA computer.
The EPA is, quite simply, a broken agency. They have become a tool for political assassination of businesses and persons who are not of the correct political persuasion and they spend our money in a way that is far better described as corrupt than simply wasteful. Reform of the agency may be possible with a better President assigning new leadership, but at this point it might be better to simply close the doors and save the nation a ton of money.