Federal agencies spent $91 billion of taxpayer money in September 2019, the last month of the last fiscal year, a report published by the government watchdog group OpenTheBooks.com, found.
The report identifies 642,567 transactions, or roughly 21,418 expenditures per day made by federal government agencies.
“As the federal debt approaches $27 trillion, it’s time to end Washington’s use-it-or-lose-it spending culture,” Adam Andrzejewski, CEO and founder of Open the Books, said. “Ending this wasteful phenomenon would go a long way toward generating big savings, changing the culture of taxpayer abuse, and winning the public’s trust.”
Rather than lose the money allocated to the agencies by Congress by returning it to the U.S. Treasury Department, the agencies spent the money.
In just the last two days of September 2019, agencies spent $23.8 billion of taxpayer money.
In September, federal agencies signed $51 billion worth of contracts, which exceeded the spending in each of the previous eleven months, Open the Books notes. In the final two days, agencies authorized $23.8 billion worth of contracts, including $4.3 billion on contracts with Boeing Corp. alone.
In February 2020, President Donald Trump committed to ending this process of bureaucratic “binge-buying” in his proposed fiscal 2021 budget to Congress, which was not adopted.
Office of Management and Budget director Russ Vought told Open the Books that the practice of “use it or lose it” spending “has cost American taxpayers an untold amount of money. It’s a practice that needs to stop and OMB will continue our efforts to end this wasteful spending.”
Vought added, “Agencies rushing to get fiscal year spending out the door in order to meet their arbitrary spending quotas has only ended in millions of dollars in waste – leading to new golf carts and crab legs at agency parties.”
Of the many examples of spending taxpayer money rather than returning it, Open the Books highlighted some of the worst offenders.
The Department of Defense reportedly spent $40.1 million on Mahi Mahi, salmon, and catfish, and $4.6 million on lobster tail and crab in September alone.
Federal agencies spent $690.6 million in last minute purchases on weapons and ammunition in September alone. Eight non-military agencies spent $1.5 million on weapons and ammunition, including the departments of Veterans Affairs, Treasury, Interior, Education, Health and Human Services, Agriculture and Labor.
Federal agencies spent $25.1 million on workout equipment and recreation, including 15 agencies that spent $1 million on treadmills and elliptical equipment.
Despite federal agencies already employing 5,000 public affairs officers, their work “wasn’t enough,” Andrzejewski said.
In addition to paying their salaries and benefits, federal agencies spent an additional $456.8 million on public relations, marketing research and public opinion communications in September alone.
“Yes, agencies spent taxpayer dollars to convince taxpayers to shovel even more taxpayer money into the federal government next year,” Andrzejewski added.
U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, introduced legislation last year in response to OpentheBooks.com’s transparency efforts. Called the End of Year Fiscal Responsibility Act, it would end agencies’ annual 11th-hour spending spree.
In light of the growing and unprecedented level of U.S. national debt, Ernst argues, “Washington should be looking for ways to save by canceling or delaying unnecessary expenses, rather than splurging on end-of-year wish lists.”