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Coburn highlights report showing $800M in federal grant money collecting dust

Tom Coburn reuters

Nov. 9, 2011: U.S. Senator Tom Coburn addresses the Reuters Washington Summit in the Reuters newsroom in Washington.Reuters

Nearly $800 million in federal grant money authorized and appropriated by federal agencies remained unspent for years, according to a recent Government Accountability Office report.

The April 16 report was highlighted Friday by GOP Sen. Tom Coburn, following the release a day earlier of a GAO study he commissioned that cast doubt on whether taxpayers' $18 billion annual investment in federal jobs training programs is paying off.

The Government Accountability Office report released last month found the $794 million in more than 10,000 federal grants remained unspent by the end of fiscal 2011.  

Among the examples was nearly $100,000 set aside for programs under the Interior Department’s Sportfishing and Boating Safety Act. Authority for the grant expired June 2005, but $99,843 remains unspent, according to the GAO report.

“Every member of Congress should be embarrassed after reading this report,” said Coburn, R-Okla. “At a time when our national debt has exceeded the size of our economy, there is no excuse for Congress to stand by and watch while agencies fail to recover millions of dollars through expired grants.” 

The report found that a large number of the grants were years past expiration, though federal agencies should have closed the accounts three to six months after the end of the grant period. 

Some grant accounts were still open 10 years past expiration, according to Coburn’s office.

The report stated that failing to close a grant account could result in recipients continuing to draw federal funds in the payments system. The report stated failing to properly close and audit a grant leaves them “more susceptible to waste, fraud or abuse.”

Click for the full report.