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Monday, December 05, 2005

Call it what it is: Stealing from the poor (Examiner Editorial)

(Posted December 5, 2005)
"Examiner Editorial - Call it what it is: Stealing from the poor"
Examiner, December 5, 2005
Unless you're brain-dead, how do you lose $2.1 million and not know about it? For individuals and private businesses, the answer is you can't - unless you're the victim of identity theft or embezzlement. But this happens all the time in the murky depths of quasi-governmental agencies, where tax dollars routinely disappear without a trace and the white collars euphemistically refer to the loss as "a shortfall" - not what it really is, which is robbing the public blind.

The latest - but by no means only - example is the Prince George's Workforce Services Corporation, a nonprofit that took mostly federal funds, passed through by the State of Maryland in the form of grants, to help the poor find jobs. Triggered by a tip to the Office of Legislative Audit's fraud hot line, state auditors discovered that the agency was running at least a $2.1 million deficit - with liabilities exceeding total assets. The deficit is expected to be even larger when the long-overdue 2004 audit, required by federal law, is finally completed.
[. . .]
Last month, County Executive Jack Johnson assumed direct management of the corporation after being notified by the state that things were seriously amiss. Missing documents, no-bid contracts, hundreds of thousands spent on "consulting" that could not be verified - all the familiar hallmarks of an elaborate con game being played at the public's expense.

Worse, Prince George's County taxpayers are ultimately responsible for repaying the purloined funds.

What's still missing is a public accounting of this entire program.

Exactly how many disadvantaged Prince George's residents were actually offered jobs as a direct result of its efforts? Until the public knows the answer to that one, they'll just be throwing more good money after bad.

[Full editorial]

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