Monday, February 01, 2010

Another government program with problems

In December, I wrote about the fact that Toledo's home weatherization program was having a difficult time finding clients and homes on which to spend the huge amount of federal funding allocated to the program.

Yesterday, the Columbus Dispatch detailed more problems with the program, specifically dealing with inspections that show errors in the work.

Federal auditors warned in December that Ohio's fast-growing program is at risk for "waste, fraud and abuse." But state officials and those running the local weatherization agencies say they're taking steps to head off trouble.

In the past three years, state inspectors have examined the work in 802 Ohio houses that qualified for help with insulation, efficient furnaces and other energy-saving improvements. State records show the inspectors cited the agencies doing the work a total of 1,616 times -- an average of two citations per project.

Problems included improper ventilation and a "vent too close to combustibles," according to inspectors' notes for a Dayton-area agency that racked up more than 200 citations on 31 homes in 2008.

Of course, the state claims that they've improved the training which should help avoid problems in the future.

As I wrote in December:

Ohio, which divvied up the total allotment of $266,781,409, also authorized the purchase of several trucks and vans, infrared cameras, blower doors, combustion analyzers, insulation blowing machines, and additional safety equipment with the funds. And just for good measure, they funded training courses to meet demand due to the considerable increase of crew and contractor based personnel hiring they expected would be the result of the program.

According to the Dispatch:

The GAO recommended that Ohio step up inspections to head off further problems.

The program has added one inspector since the stimulus work began in July, said Bill Graves, community development director for the state Development Department. Another inspector is to start on Feb. 15, and the state is seeking a third.

That will bring the number of inspectors to nine: 50 percent more inspectors for a program that is growing fourfold.

The department also plans to add two auditors to check the books of the weatherization agencies, he said, and will upgrade the computer system it uses to better track projects.
Ohio officials say they have no plans to check work beyond the required 5 percent of jobs.

Nobody outside of the program can check on the work. Ohio won't release the addresses of homes where the work is done, citing federal privacy laws.

That could mean thousands of botched jobs will never be caught, said Leslie Paige, spokeswoman for Citizens Against Government Waste, a nonprofit group that began raising questions after the weatherization program received $5 billion in stimulus funding for projects nationwide.

Like the GAO, Paige fears waste and fraud will occur as the weatherization agencies rapidly add contractors and employees to do all the new work.

Of course, if federal, state and local governments weren't taking so much of a homeowners income in the first place, there'd be no need for a program with contractors and inspectors to weatherize homes because the owner would have the financial resources to do so on their own. Then, they'd pick the contractor (rather than have one dictated to them) and they'd use the local municipality's inspection departments, if applicable.

This 'program' has created a huge bureaucracy just to dispense, perform, inspect and monitor the activities. It's no surprise that the government program is experience problems.

And I'd bet they're spending more money on those functions than they are on the actual costs to weatherize.

No comments:

Google Analytics Alternative