Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Today in “unexpectedly”

Byron York writing in the Washington Examiner:

Report: In Obama's Chicago, stimulus weatherization money buys shoddy work, widespread fraud

Projects to weatherize homes are a key part of the Obama administration's fusion of stimulus spending and the green agenda. But a new report by the Department of Energy has found serious problems in stimulus-funded weatherization work -- problems so severe that they have resulted in homes that are not only not more energy efficient but are actually dangerous for people to live in.

The study, by the Department's inspector general, examined the work of what's called the Weatherization Assistance Program, or WAP, in Illinois. Last year, the Department awarded Illinois $242 million, which was expected to pay for the weatherization of 27,000 homes. Specifically, Energy Department inspectors took a close look at the troubled operations of the Community and Economic Development Association of Cook County, known as CEDA, which is the largest recipient of weatherization money in Illinois with $91 million to weatherize 12,500 homes. (Cook County is, of course, home to Chicago.)

The findings are grim. "Our testing revealed substandard performance in weatherization workmanship, initial assessments, and contractor billing," the inspector general report says. "These problems were of such significance that they put the integrity of the entire program at risk."
Well, wow. Who could have seen that coming? Among the findings that York reported are failed inspections. In fact, 14 out of 15 homes inspected failed. I think that translates to a ninety-three percent failure rate, or if you’re one of those sunny side up “the glass is half full” kinda people, a seven percent success rate. But it gets better:

In eight of the homes, CEDA had come up with unworkable and ineffective plans -- like putting attic insulation in a house with a leaky roof. In ten of the homes, "contractors billed for labor charges that had not been incurred and for materials that had not been installed." The report calls billing problems "pervasive," with seven of ten contractors being cited for erroneous invoicing. And the department found "a 62 percent final inspection error rate" when CEDA inspectors reviewed their own work.

The work was not just wasteful; it was dangerous. Department inspectors found "heat barriers around chimneys that had not been installed, causing fire hazards." They found "a furnace [that] had not been vented properly." The found "a shut-off valve that had not been installed on a gas stove." And they found "carbon monoxide detectors, smoke alarms and fire extinguishers had not been installed as planned."

And then there was fraud. At ten of the 15 homes visited, Department inspectors found examples in which "a contractor had installed a 125,000 BTU boiler, but had billed CEDA for a 200,000 BTU boiler costing an estimated $1,000. more." Another contractor "billed for almost four times the amount of drywall actually installed." And another "installed 12 light bulbs but had billed CEDA for 20." (The Department found that CEDA paid almost three times the retail price for each light bulb.) "Billing issues appeared to be pervasive," the report concludes.
Aw, hell-close enough for government work, right? No one spends someone else’s money like they spend their own and the government is the absolute worst of the worst. In ObamaLand tax dollars are like manna from Heaven. The concept that tax dollars are the result of the labor of hard working people does penetrate the liberal psyche.

The onus doesn’t fall completely on the government. As taxpayers we haven’t done our due diligence and we haven’t held our representatives accountable. Think of the child who is allowed to run amok until one day the parents have had enough and they put their foot down. Suddenly the rules have changed and the child doesn’t understand why. Many in our government are acting like that child. They’ve been allowed to jump on the furniture for so long that they feel entitled to it.

The key is to be consistent with our elected officials. We need to let them know that we are in charge, what our expectations are and what the consequences are for not meeting our expectations. Going forward we should insist on knowing, and approving, of projects that require tax money. The tax money spent on the Weatherization Assistance Program would have been just as productive had it been tossed in to the Chicago River. We taxpayers should insist on more from our government.

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