Read the following excerpt and answer the questions listed below it.
Federal agencies issue numerous regulations and guidelines, and state and local officials complain about their proliferation. Paradoxically, federal control of state and local implementation is weak, and in block-grant programs, the control is intentionally weak because ensuring broad discretion is a federal goal. The federal government may require each state and local government to plan for the use of their grant and report how the grant was allocated and spent, but it cannot question the use unless there has been a clear violation of the law. In fact, illegal as well as trivial uses of block-grant funds may go undetected and unpunished because of federal reliance on self-reporting by recipient governments, inadequate auditing and enforcement staff, and the overriding commitment to shift decision making downward in the federal system.
Analyze and explain what you think of this lack of rigor in federal control as it applies to block-grant programs.
As a citizen who pays taxes, explain in detail if you think it is justified or not justified that the money is misused or used illegally and that there is no detection or intervention by the federal government because of its “goal of broad discretion” in the management of federal grants.
From the outside it just seems so obvious: surveillance. From the inside it seems obvious: integrity. It is a debate that extends to every aspect of government. How often have we read some politician complain about waste, fraud, and abuse. Every federal agency has an inspector general whose job is exactly to ferret out abuse. But there needs to be indicators. Do we pay an auditor $70.000 a year to save $10,000? Doesn’t make sense. It is often said that it is cheaper to allow a bank to be robbed then to hire a guard to prevent robbery.
Block grants are widely used to provide states with a pocket of money targeted to a particular need. And there are guidelines. Transportation is a good example. The money is targeted to upgrade/maintain the federal highway infrastructure. It is financed through gasoline taxes. Now does a rest stop qualify as infrastructure? Makes sense. Well, do I build it next to the existing McDonald’s or someplace else? How about an information center? Or what if I refurbish some place of interest to tourism It gets tricky. And if the only local contractor is the mayor’s son? There are many similar examples. For instance, the school lunch program is financed through block grants from the Agriculture Department. The key is to move federally subsidized food products into poor kids’ stomachs. Who decides on the supplier of the food to the schools? The school does, usually the superintendent and director of finance.
“Verification summaries obtained from 10 of the nation’s largest school districts show a high proportion of those asked to provide proof of income could not or would not comply. The data are prompting some school officials to question the way the program is administered” (Bass, 2010).
Bass, D. (2010, Winter). Fraud in the Lunchroom? Retrieved from http://educationnext.org/fraud-in-the-lunchroom.
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