Two news reports in the month of June have made me angry at State of Missouri government officials. One report is about the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and the Department of Social Services(DESE and SS for the remainder of my post) and the second report is about the new, shiny airplane that Governor Nixon has benefited from, and that the State Highway Patrol ordered it and we taxpayers paid for it.
First up under my microscope, the wasteful spending by DESE and SS jointly. Missouri’s State Auditor, Tom Schweich, released a very critical report detailing how both departments spent $171,000 on 3 programs that ultimately failed and some of the monies went down the drain. DESE and SS awarded money to 3 different enterprises that were going to provide childcare facilities. $22,500 was awarded to a facility that was to provide in-home childcare but unfortunately, no children ever attended the facility. Poof! Where did that money go? $89,000 went to another facility to create 24 new childcare openings. At this facility, only 14 new children came and then the owner(s) sold the business. Was that loan returned to DESE and SS? $60,000 was spent on a childcare facility that wasn’t built! Poof! Again, has the money been returned? DESE and SS gave these monies out through their joint “Start Up and Expansion” program aimed at helping early childhood centers, aka daycare centers. The recipients of the money awards signed a contract promising that they would return the monetary award if for whatever reason they didn’t stay in the “Start Up” program. From one news report about this that I read, only one of the 3 recipients cited in the Auditor’s report has been paying back the award money to DESE and SS;the other two have not, and good luck getting it back, I’d say! Common sense would dictate that if a business enterprise fails, the enterprise will also not be reliable on repaying back a loan.
Second under my microscope is the $5.6 million new, private jet that the Governor is flying around in and that the State Highway Patrol ordered and authorized it’s purchase. State Auditor Schweich released his report on this yesterday, June 25th, and his findings are a prime example of money being spent when it really didn’t need to be spent. As of 2012, the state of Missouri already owned and used 5 private planes. 2 are owned by the State Highway Patrol and the other 3 are owned by the Conservation Department. One of the State Highway Patrol’s planes has a pressurized cabin, and only one of the Conservation Department’s planes has that feature. State Highway Patrol spokesman Captain Tim Hull essentially said that the state needed to have this new plane because it had a pressurized cabin, which gives a more comfortable ride, that often the two existing planes with the pressurized cabins were both signed up for and that meant if a third state agency needed a plane for travel it could’t use the nicer planes, and that they did purchase the new plane for a discount! Auditor Scwheich, in his investigation, looked at the numbers for 2012 as to how many times any of the existing 5 planes were actually used. 58 days, the pressurized cabin planes were used. 159 days, the pressurized cabin planes weren’t used. 113 days, none of the 5 planes were used. Auditor Schweich asked was this purchase actually needed at all? I ask, who works at the state agencies that use the planes? Adults or 16 year olds who only want to travel around in Daddy’s fancy car? Common sense would dictate that if you have to have a plane to travel in for state business and the 2 comfy planes are already signed out, then pull up your big boy pants and ride in the non-comfy plane! Not spend $5.6 million on an other comfy plane!! Another interesting bit of info I read about is that for the first 3 months of 2013, only Governor Nixon traveled in the new plane and if another state agency employee had to also travel with him then that state agency got the bill for the plane’s costs for that day, not the Governor’s office! Fortunately, the Missouri State Legislature got wind of that bit about financing the plane’s travel costs and had a bill added to the budget that stops the Governor’s office from doing that.
I want to thank State Auditor Schweich for uncovering these wasteful expenditures. I hope the DESE and SS truly relook at their “Start Up” program and make the lending of the monetary awards more stringent and that they will also have better ways of getting the money back if a recipient drops out of the program;they have said that they are doing this. I also hope that the State Highway Patrol(an agency I loathe to criticize because of the important work that they do for the citizens of Missouri)will think a lot harder before they spend a large amount of money on a machine that may not really be a need but a desire.
I would also like to recognize and give credit to the following that aided in my research for my blog post today: Mr. Bob Watson, with News-Tribune.com, Missourinet Radio News, and KMOX Radio.