- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The Broadcasting Board of Governors, the agency that manages Radio Free Asia and other U.S. international broadcasting, had almost no oversight of millions of tax dollars spent on these groups annually, according to a watchdog audit released on Tuesday.

A new State Department Office of Inspector General audit of the BBG’s FY 2013 finances found that the agency had not assigned a single officer or person to monitor its Asian grantee, Radio Free Asia, which received about $37.5 million in appropriated funds that year.

Radio Free Asia is one of three major international grantees the BBG oversees along with its European and Middle Eastern projects, Radio Free Europe and Middle East Broadcasting Networks. Those three grantees receive roughly a third of BBG’s appropriated funds each year.

Auditors found that BBG offered little guidance to RFA on how to use $4.3 million in funds for specific projects related to open Internet initiative in Asia. As a result, Radio Free Asia spent about $4 million on 14 contracts with organizations that did not meet federal standards.

Auditors also found that RFA officials had been awarding millions of dollars in contracts to organizations they were personally connected to, violating federal “conflict-of-interest” restrictions, the report said.

In addition, none of the six contracts that investigators examined in their audit competed on the open market. After further investigation auditors found that RFA chose to issue all 47 of its contracts related to Internet freedom projects as sole-source awards without competition.

This is not the first time the BBG has come under fire for a serious lack of management and accountability. Last year, another State Department audit found that the agency had wasted almost $5 million in taxpayer dollars on questionable and unapproved purchases.

Republicans in Congress have called for the agency to be gutted for its history of waste and mismanagement.

In a statement released after the 2014 report, California Rep. Ed Royce of the House Foreign Affairs Committee called on the administration to “scrap this broken agency” in order to protect national security interests.

• Kellan Howell can be reached at khowell@washingtontimes.com.

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