Wednesday Waste, Library of Congress Edition

Wednesday Waste | June 13, 2012

Waste has piled up like stacks of aged books in the Library of Congress. For over a decade leadership changes and a lack of communication have led to misspent funds, no-bid contracts and expiration of funds appropriated to the library.

A recent investigation by the library’s inspector general found $771,163 in questionable spending from the prior six months and $1 million in funds left to expire. With 250,000 books and periodicals added each year, the money could be put to better use. The library is in desperate need of new space with books currently shelved on top of each other or stacked on the floor. Many valuable artifacts are left unsecure resulting recently in the loss of a valuable scroll, which was later mysteriously returned.

Furthermore, an outside consulting firm randomly selected and examined $52 million in contracts issued by the library. Of these contracts, more than half were awarded without opening up the pool to competitive bids. A portion of the $587.3 million in taxpayer dollars appropriated by Congress for fiscal 2012 is spent on contractors for as much as $40 million on IT services. Under law the LOC is not bound to use the same competitive bidding process as an executive branch agency, letting the library bend the regulation when dealing with independent contracting agencies.

In response, inspector general Karl Schornagel stated, “The reason this has gone on for 10 years is because there is a lack of continuity in leadership. And beyond that, there’s really no excuse. That’s not even an excuse.” The House Appropriations Committee directed the library to assign proper management to see that contracts are awarded correctly and to report back at the end of the year.

With a decade of overspending behind them, the Library of Congress owes taxpayers better accountability of not just their valued texts but their hard earned dollars as well. And like an ancient text, this classic example of government waste is getting old fast.

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