Agencies sitting on $70B in unspent funds, report finds

Thursday - 6/7/2012, 9:30am EDT

A congressional report outlines $70 billion of unspent federal dollars that could have helped disaster victims, spurred highway construction and funded education programs.

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), who released the report today, said the languishing funds are due to "poorly drafted laws, bureaucratic obstacles and mismanagement, and a general lack of interest or demand from the communities to which this money was allocated," according to a release.

Sen.Tom Coburn (R-Okla) (AP)

Lack of congressional oversight in spending only leads to more unneeded, wasteful spending, Coburn said.

"The exception to the proverb 'a penny saved is a penny earned' is the federal government, where an unspent dollar represents lost opportunities to reduce the debt or to assist an individual, a family, or a community. Nearly every challenge we face conjures up the same response from Washington: spend more money," Coburn said.

The report's findings include:

  • Nearly one-fourth of the $19.7 billion for disaster recovery funds at the Department of Housing and Urban Development have remained unspent — five years after Hurricane Katrina, where more than 350,000 homes were destroyed.

  • Nearly one-fourth of $35 billion in disaster grants is unspent at the Homeland Security Department. FEMA said the delays were caused by too many federal regulations.

  • More than $1 billion in transportation funds are unspent in three states — Virginia, Maryland and Georgia.

  • More than a decade after 9/11, billions are unspent of the $11.3 billion that Congress appropriated for direct aid and tax benefits to New York City.

  • A program at the Energy Department to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. As of 2007, Energy had $30 million in reserves for this program.

  • The Department of Justice has not spent $100 million allocated for body armor for the agency's law enforcement officers.

  • The Environmental Protection Agency has held more than $122 million in funds for special projects, appropriated by Congress more than five years ago.

Read the full report.

RELATED STORIES

Bill calls for 'duplication score' to cut wasteful programs

White House announces plan to cut government waste