Golden Hammer: Energy Department pays out millions for contractors’ food, drink

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The misspent funds included a contractor who gave $1 million to subcontracting companies owned by family members or in which the contractor had a financial interest.

Several contractors said they received no guidance from the Energy Department, and only met with federal officials to discuss the scientific parts of the projects. Investigators said that the department’s oversight was poor, but they did not absolve the contractors from things such as charging the government for alcohol, something the IG said was clearly banned by federal regulations.

The Energy Department is not the only agency with management shortcomings regarding contractor funds.

Across all departments, wasted money can often be damaging to a program’s credibility, no matter how much it may serve the public’s interest, said Joe Newman, spokesman for the Project On Government Oversight, a government accountability watchdog.

“It’s very difficult at that point when you’re playing a game of negotiating over millions and billions of dollars in a budget to defend something that has a poor track record of oversight,” he said, adding that critics will use any fiscal abuse as ammunition against a program.

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