While many Americans are making hopeful New Year’s resolutions for 2016 like losing weight, learning a new skill or saving more money, federal agency officials could focus on being more productive with the trillions of tax dollars they collect every year. There is no shortage of ways to do so.
The Government Accountability Office (GAO), for example, claims federal officials could save $80 billion a year by implementing the cost-saving measure they propose every week. But agencies don’t follow through with most of those suggestions, and there’s more waste out there than GAO detects.
From solar-powered beer to President Barack Obama’s Hawaii vacation, here are the top 10 wasteful expenditures of 2015:
10. Space camp for Pakistani teenagers — $250,000
The Department of State spent $250,000 to send 24 Pakistani teenagers to the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama, so they could practice their English skills, according to the latest “Waste Report” by Kentucky’s Republican Sen. Rand Paul.
“Space Camp to learn English?,” Paul wrote. “By that standard, doing almost anything in an English-speaking country like the U.S. must qualify. Why not a trip to an amusement park?”
9. Hawaii’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit costs 10 times more than it recovers
Hawaii’s federally funded Medicaid Fraud Control Unit costs 10 times more to operate than its agents recover from Medicaid fraud investigations.
The unit reclaimed about $337,000 from 2011 to 2013, but spent $3.9 million running its operations in that same time period, according to the U.S. Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General.
“On the basis of our findings, OIG is concerned about the unit’s ability to carry out its statutory functions and meet program requirements,” the HHS IG said.
8. Empty buildings: $1.7 billion
Americans are spending $1.7 billion each year to maintain empty federal buildings, the Office of Management and Budget estimates. That’s about $53 per person in the U.S., per year. OMB claims there could be as many as 55,000 vacant or underutilized federal properties in the country.
7. Smokey Bear Laundromat: $25,000
The U.S. Forest Service spent $25,000 building a Smokey Bear Laundromat at the Lincoln National Forest in Ruidoso, New Mexico, when the closest privately owned laundromat was a mere one-fifth of a mile away. The price tag only includes the facility costs, not the washers and dryers, according to Paul’s Waste Report.
“Maybe you have anguished over a coffee stain on your pants or prayed an errant blotch of marinara sauce would come out of a white shirt,” Paul said. “Well, it seems the U.S. Forest Service is concerned about laundry too, which is why earlier this year they spent almost $25,000 to build the Smokey Bear Laundromat at the Lincoln National Forest in Ruidoso, New Mexico.”