Waste and incompetence at the Internal Revenue Service seemingly knows no bounds.
The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) has recently revealed that the IRS spent $12 million in taxpayer funds on an email system that turned out to be completely “unusable.” And that’s not all. The TIGTA report dated September 30, 2016, notes that the agency also violated federal regulations and may have even broken its own appropriations rules in the process.
In other words, the IRS’s attempts to comply with an Office of Management and Budget (OMB) directive to modernize its email records resulted in a giant mess. Surprise, surprise.
Unfortunately, when it comes to the IRS and wasteful government spending this is all just par for the course.
Nevertheless, the congressional watchdog committees that oversee this disorder provided IRS officials with their requisite tongue-lashing:
“As a result of the IRS’s carelessness, the Agency will not meet OMB’s December 31, 2016, deadline to modernize its email system, wasting millions of taxpayer dollars and further delaying full IRS transparency and accountability. These failures are unacceptable and must be addressed.”
The letter — signed by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas), and House Ways and Means Oversight Subcommittee Chairman Peter Roskam (R-Ill.) — also asks IRS Commissioner John Koskinen to direct IRS Chief Information Officer Gina Garza to brief their respective committees on these “inexcusable failures” by November 2.
The IRS, predictably, denies it has done anything wrong in this case. In an email response, an IRS spokesman said the agency “strongly disagrees” that it “wasted taxpayer dollars.”
“The IRS followed appropriate management processes and developed the acquisition in line with federal regulations,” the statement read. “Had a contract protest not occurred, the IRS would have been well on its way to using this software and completing this project in 2016. The IRS remains committed to continuously improving our IT systems and processes to follow all federal acquisition rules.”
Despite the IRS’s strong denials, a quick review of even just recent history demonstrates a clear track record of wasteful spending and a complete disregard for the source of those funds: the American taxpayer.
In 2013, another TIGTA report showed the IRS spent nearly $50 million on “conferences” over a three-year period. A significant chunk of these funds — $4 million — was spent on a single conference in Anaheim, California, in 2010, which included $50,000 on a “Star Trek” parody video starring senior IRS officials. According to TIGTA, these were funds that were supposed to have been used to hire more enforcement agents.
At the time, Congress scolded the IRS once again and chastised the agency for its “culture of excess,” in the words of then-House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA).
And yet the hits just kept on coming.
In April 2015, another report showed the IRS spent nearly $4 million redecorating their offices with new furniture. In October 2015, the agency was once again the butt of jokes when we learned that it spent more millions in taxpayer money upgrading their computers to an obsolete version of Windows.
Again we had more bluster and reprimands rain down from Congress, but nothing in the way of real action. Meanwhile, the IRS continues to beg for more cash and complains that it is understaffed and overworked.
It’s a joke. And it would be a hilarious one at that if wasn’t coming at the expense of the American people.
It remains to be seen what kind of sanctions, if any, the IRS will face as a result of this latest “blunder.” Their “useless” $12 million email system was purchased, according to TIGTA, without “first determining project infrastructure needs, integration requirements, business requirements, security and portal bandwidth, and whether the subscriptions were technologically feasible on the IRS enterprise” — or, in other words, without any foresight whatsoever.
If this recklessness wasn’t bad enough, TIGTA’s report notes that the IRS may have violated the “bona fide needs rule,” since it did not deploy the software subscriptions for their email system in the years that they were purchased. On top of that, TIGTA also found that the IRS did not use “full and open competition” to purchase these subscription, which is a violation of Federal Acquisition Regulation requirements.
These are serious charges, and yet it’s what we’ve come to expect as “business as usual” for this runaway agency that badly needs to be placed in check.
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