And another thing...

MONEY FOR NOTHING. In the grand scheme of government spending, it's not a lot of money, but the Homeland Security Department took a hit recently from the Government Accountability Office for blowing hundreds of thousands of dollars on some curious items after Hurricane Katrina last year.

A GAO report to the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee found, among other things, that DHS employees had overspent on meals-ready-to-eat, and that FEMA bought 20 boats at twice the retail price. And about 100 notebook PCs and 12 boats are missing.

Among other expenses, the Associated Press reported, the auditors found:
  • $66,442 for about 2,000 sets of dog booties, ostensibly for dogs assisting in relief efforts. They haven't been used, because the boots were found to be unsuitable for the dogs on the job.

  • $71,170 for three portable shower units, which is about three times what they should cost.

  • $2,500 for 37 Helly Hansen designer rain jackets, supposedly for use at a firing range that closes when it rains.

  • $7,000 for 12 Apple iPod Nanos and 42 iPod Shuffles for Secret Service 'training and storage.' (So that's what they're doing with those earpieces.)

  • $1,000 on a beer brewing kit and ingredients, for use by an on-duty Coast Guard official acting as a social organizer. Now, one could argue that this expense at least provides real relief, except that the Coast Guard homebrew was going for 12 bucks a six-pack, which would seem to defeat the idea of brewing your own.

Auditors said part of the problem is that the 10,000 or so DHS employees who have purchase cards don't get much training in how, when and for what to use them. A DHS spokesman told AP that 'a small number of bad apples' were responsible for the bad expenses (about 70 employees have been disciplined), and pointed out that the vast majority of about 1.1 million purchases made with the cards last year, totaling about $435 million, were on the up and up. Good point. But it still doesn't explain the dog booties.

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