No doubt billions of dollars lavished on local and state governments through the federal “stimulus” program were wasted. No one with any knowledge of how bureaucrats do things can have reasonable doubt about that.
Unfortunately, West Virginia has become a sort of “poster state” for wasting “stimulus” money-and we probably deserve the unpleasant attention.
Last week the U.S. Commerce Department’s inspector general released a report on the fiasco involving purchase of more than 1,100 computer network routers with “stimulus” money given to West Virginia. The routers, at $22,600 each, were vastly more complex than needed at many of the public facilities, such as schools and libraries, where they were sent.
Once the press focused attention on the purchase, it was learned some of the routers, including those sent to State Police units, needed modifications to work with existing equipment. Some local officials hadn’t even unpacked the routers for many months after they were received.
Yet state officials maintain the purchase was appropriate. A price break was obtained from the manufacturer, Cisco Corp., because of the bulk purchase. High-capacity routers were obtained to ensure good service in the future. The deal included warranties extended for an additional two years.
All these arguments do not address the basic fact that, as the Commerce Department pointed out, adequate routers could have been obtained for substantially less than the state paid.
The federal investigation was launched at the request of members of Congress. No doubt they will use the probe of West Virginia misuse of “stimulus” funds to illustrate other complaints about the program.
What ought to disturb West Virginians more, however, is state government’s continuing insistence the deal was wise use of taxpayers’ money.
It was not-and failure to admit that does not inspire confidence in future decisions about state spending.