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Government Reform

The Late Edition: February 19, 2013
Posted By:  - 02/19/13

Today’s Taxpayer News!

NTU’s Pete Sepp on the approximately $45,000 a year taxpayer-funded pension Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. will be due, unless he chooses not to take it.

NTU’s Nan Swift takes a detailed look at the President’s proposals for education reform.

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The Late Edition: January 28, 2013
Posted By:  - 01/28/13

Today’s Taxpayer News!

Pete Sepp weighs in on two bills sponsored by Iowa Representatives Tom Latham (R) and Dave Loebsack (D) which would limit congressional pay increases. Read the full story from The Gazette.

State Affairs Manager Lee Schalk on North Carolina’s legislative plans to make the state more business-friendly.

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ICASS and Economies of Scale
Posted By: Michael Tasselmyer - 01/17/13

In 1997, the U.S. government established the International Cooperative Administrative Support Services (ICASS) system to offer administrative support to federal agencies with employees stationed overseas. Funded at over $2 billion in fiscal year 2011, ICASS provides a wide variety of services, ranging from vehicle maintenance to furniture supply and upkeep, for nearly 23,500 federal employees in more than 40 agencies stationed at over 250 embassies, consulates, and offices around the world. ICASS is a cost-sharing system, in which participating agencies contribute funds relative to the costs they incur by using the system.

However, participating agencies aren't always keen on utilizing the services that ICASS offers: from 2005 to 2011, 13 agencies decreased their participation by more than 10 percent each. A 2012 report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) attempted to find out why.

GAO found that nearly all participating agencies decline some level of support from ICASS and instead find alternative means of providing select services. For example, many agencies prefer to manage their own vehicle fleets rather than pay for ICASS support, often citing in a GAO-conducted survey that they had concerns about the cost and quality of ICASS services. In fact, 11 of the 56 respondents in that survey who indicated that they did not use ICASS vehicle support said that their departments’ missions simply could not be carried out if they had to rely on ICASS vehicular services.

In December 2012, Senator Daniel Akaka (D-HI) introduced S. 3676, the Reducing Duplication Overseas Act. That legislation would have required government agencies to obtain administrative support from ICASS unless they could demonstrate significant cost or efficiency advantages from other providers. Specifically, the bill would apply to vehicle and furniture services.

In theory, with higher participation rates, ICASS could purchase more administrative services in bulk, and therefore at lower costs per unit - a concept economists refer to as "economies of scale." By consolidating government support services, ICASS can purchase them more efficiently, and cut down on extraneous costs such as paying for separate warehouses, more individualized workloads, and convoluted inventory tracking.

GAO found that if ICASS participation increased by 10 percent, per-unit costs for various services affected by Akaka's bill could decrease by 5 to 8 percent.

If federal agencies are going to opt out of the ICASS system, they should document and show that the alternatives they employ are justified. They should make the case that they are either saving money or cannot meet their objective with existing services. This data could, in turn, be used to streamline and improve ICASS.

NTUF does not support any public official or position. For more information on BillTally, please visit ntu.org/ntuf.

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The Late Edition: January 10, 2013
Posted By:  - 01/10/13

Today’s Taxpayer News!

NTUF’s Demian Brady and NTU’s Brandon Arnold address the necessity of spending reform in this Townhall op-ed.

This Real Clear Politics article examines President Obama’s lackluster stance on cutting spending.

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Harper on Spending Transparency in Committees
Posted By: Dan Barrett - 01/09/13

Via the Washington Examiner, the Cato Institute's Director of Information Policy Studies, Jim Harper, asks why the Appropriations Committees in both federal chambers don't use technology to better convey their spending intentions when considering legislation:

"For better or worse, the movement of money is a reflection of our values, but the appropriations process is the cloudiest mirror America ever gazed into. More than a trillion dollars move each year based on appropriators' instructions, but Congress's spending decisions are so cloistered in arcane language and inaccessible documentation, the appropriation committees might as well be a pair of mountain monasteries.

"Why not publish proposed spending in appropriations bills using digital formats and uniform codes to indicate what agencies, bureaus, programs, and projects would get the money, as well as what they're supposed to do with it? So far, appropriators have deeply lagged their colleagues in Congress and the rest of the government. There's no sign they plan to change that."

Props to Jim in his efforts to not only change the way government releases information for taxpayers to better understand government but to be active in allowing Americans to voice their opinions on proposed legislation through his WashingtonWatch.com website. Check it out & you’ll see some NTUF BillTally figures there!

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The Late Edition: January 8, 2012
Posted By:  - 01/08/13

Today’s Taxpayer News!

As the debt ceiling approaches, cutting unnecessary government spending needs to be front and center in Washington. This opinion piece from the Washington Post examines the history of farm subsidies and their burden on taxpayers.  

Because the debt deal to avert the Fiscal Cliff failed to specify the spending cuts that will need to take place in coming months, states are left unsure about how to manage their budgets.

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Whistleblower Protections: A Living Example of Their Relevance
Posted By:  - 12/20/12

This past November NTU celebrated the signing into law of the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act, after a decade-long campaign to strengthen the process by which federal employees who report waste, fraud, and abuse are shielded from on-the-job retaliation. From time to time, we’re reminded that the issues of transparency and insight into the inner workings of government surrounding whistleblower laws have human dimensions. They’re not just about dry language in some obscure federal statute.

Karen Hudes, a former US Export Import Bank employee who served in the Legal Department from 1986 to 2007, is one such example. She contacted NTU after learning of a grassroots petition on World Bank shenanigans we conducted with the Government Accountability Project. According to Hudes’ website, after witnessing what she believed to be a flawed and fraudulent takeover of a Philippine bank in 1999 she voiced her concerns to the World Bank’s Internal Audit Department. Hudes alleges that instead of having her concerns addressed she was placed on probation while the matters she raised were swept aside:

“The Bank’s Country Director in the Philippines reassigned Karen when she asked him to sign a letter warning the Philippines’ government that the Bank could not disburse its loan without a waiver from the Board of Executive Directors since the loan conditionality was not met. The World Bank’s Internal Audit Department refused to correct the satisfactory evaluation of the Bank’s supervision performance or the flawed report of the Institutional Integrity Department to the Audit Committee of the Board of Executive Directors.”

Hudes’ attempt to report what she had experienced has gone on for several years now. The Senate Committee on Foreign Relations and Senators Richard Lugar, Evan Bayh and Patrick Leahy made attempts to gain answers from the World Bank concerning Hudes’ findings, but those efforts did not, she contends, prove conclusive. After Hudes brought her complaint to the Internal Audit Department, the World Bank proceeded to fire her, as well as the Staff Association’s lawyer. In 2009, after years of legal battles, the Chairman of the World Bank's Committee on Governance and Administrative Matters and Dean of the Board of Executive Directors reversed her firing, but the Bank’s President at that time did not recognize the decision. Hudes still currently has cases in the U.S. District Court and in the U.S. Court of Appeals.

Although we do not claim to have the expertise that could judge the merits of the highly technical financial details behind the World Bank’s practices, Hudes’ story illustrates one important point: how vital the recent victory of the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act is in at least helping to provide government employees safe avenues to report information that can then be evaluated without fear of reprisal.

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After Over a Decade, Stronger Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act Passes Senate
Posted By:  - 11/15/12

This week, the Senate took a vital step towards improving government accountability and protecting those government workers who speak out against waste, fraud, and abuse by passing S. 743, the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act (WPEA) by unanimous consent. This landmark legislation, which NTU has been avidly fighting in favor of for years, took over a decade to wind its way up to the sitting president’s desk and now finally appears poised to become law.

Although similar legislative efforts have been made in the past, they have largely been undone through the courts, leaving would-be whistleblowers few avenues for reporting government abuses on the job without fear of retaliation. S.743 has been crafted with these past defects in mind, and seeks to remedy former oversights. Among the new safeguards are provisions to:

  • Close loopholes previously created by the courts that eliminated protections for some of the most frequently encountered whistleblower problems
  • Extend the span of protections into more sectors of government
  • Allow the Office of Special Counsel to file amicus briefs in support of whistleblowers

These new measures will go a long way towards helping streamline the whistleblower process, strengthening the protections for federal employees who speak out, and essentially making government more accountable to the people whom it serves.

NTU is just one of the many organizations across the political spectrum who have advocated along with members of Congress for a stronger whistleblower protection law. In September, Republican Congressman Todd Platts of Pennsylvania thanked NTU and a number of others for our work on behalf of the legislation, saying:

“Without all of their efforts, we would not be in a position to finally secure enactment of this important legislation that insures whistleblowers with the courage to report waste, fraud, and abuse are applauded---not punished.”

 

 

 

 

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(VIDEO) NTU's Pete Sepp on Protecting Whistleblowers and Fostering Transparency in Government
Posted By:  - 09/27/12

Pete Sepp from the National Taxpayers Union talks with Michael Ostrolenk about the need to protect whistleblowers and for regulatory transparency reform for the new congress and administration in 2013. He talks about organizing and educating conservatives on the whistleblower issue. Pete and Michael recently did an Op-Ed in support of the whistleblower bill in the Senate / House available here

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The Late Edition: September 27, 2012
Posted By:  - 09/27/12

Today’s Taxpayer News!

Stephen Slivinski, of the Goldwater Institute in Arizona, explains how eliminating state income taxes has been shown to significantly spur economic growth and encourage job creation in states like Texas, and proposes that Arizona follow suit.

NTU’s Pete Sepp weighs in on congressional perks in this article from the Washington Guardian

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