Magazine article Insight on the News

Tis the Season to Be ... Jaundiced?

Magazine article Insight on the News

Tis the Season to Be ... Jaundiced?

Article excerpt

Thanksgiving is digested, the mornings are nippy and everywhere you go something magical is in the air, a sense of joy and anticipation that can only mean one thing: Unless waste & abuse has been scratched off the mailing list out of spite, the inspector general's, or IG's, semiannual reports are on their way!

Twice a year the reports dribble in, offering a six-month snapshot of the many ways Uncle Sam's little helpers screwed up in the workshop -- which means it's merry Christmas for muckrakers! And to all a good jeer! First to arrive this season (congratulations, gang) was a report from the Department of Transportation -- prominently featuring the madcap misadventures of those naughty boys and girls at the Federal Aviation Administration, or FAA -- from which the following highlights are drawn:

* A postmortem on the $2.6 billion Advanced Automation System, the never-completed centerpiece of FAA modernization efforts in the late 1980s and early 1990s, found that $1.5 billion (or 57 percent of the project's cost) was wasted;

* The IG found that "in the absence of aggressive cost control," the already gigantic price tag for Boston's Central Artery Project, a boondoggle known locally as "The Big Dig," likely will rise from $10.8 billion to $11.2 billion, all so Anthony can get home in time for dinner when it's Prince Spaghetti day;

* An audit of 14 family-housing projects planned by the U.S. Coast Guard found that nine of the projects, likely to cost at least $44.6 million, were not needed, and errors in how the Coast Guard worked its actuarial models caused an underestimation in its retirement and medical-benefit liabilities by $1.3 billion;

* Although the FAA says its efforts to mitigate against possible system failures related to the year 2000 computer problem are on target, the IG found that six FAA systems under development were not Y2K compliant and that 102 of FAA's missioncritical systems will not be tested and fixed by the March 31, 1999, deadline set by the Office of Management and Budget; and

* Thanks to an exhaustive physical inventory of spare parts stored at 800 locations around the country, FAA employees found an additional 35,000 parts valued at $120 million that had not been included in previous counts.

Next week: We review the latest semiannual report from the IG at the Department of Justice.

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