Coburn asks for details on year-end spending spree

Tuesday - 9/24/2013, 11:31am EDT

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) wants to know just how much money agencies spent during what many call the "year-end spending binge" in fiscal 2013.

With less than a week before the end of the fiscal year, traditionally agencies feel the need to spend any remaining funds in their procurement accounts instead of returning the money back to the Treasury.

But Coburn wrote to Sylvia Burwell, the director of the Office of Management and Budget, Sept. 10 asking her to discourage agencies from spending all their money if they don't need to, especially in light of the current budgetary challenges the government faces.

"The potential for this year's spending boom seems likely," Coburn wrote. "A recent report estimated the value of fourth quarter federal contract opportunities could reach as much as $53 billion, the highest since fiscal year 2010. The government and those employed by it will face significant fiscal challenges next year, and now is not the time for a federal spending extravaganza."

Federal News Radio reported in August that federal contractors were expecting a huge fourth quarter boon in spending. Govini, a federal market research firm, found the number of requests for proposals are up by 28 percent in 2013 as compared to 2012.

Coburn asked OMB to provide him with answers to five questions by Nov. 1:

  • All contract actions obligating funds during quarter four of fiscal 2013, including solicitation date, award date, contract recipient, service or item purchased, contract amount, contract type and extent competed;
  • The obligation rates by quarter for all appropriations types for fiscal years 2011, 2012 and 2013;
  • The department-wide obligations, expenditures and transfers by program element level and date, and at the budget object level and date for all of fiscal 2012 and 2013 as well as the names of the system(s) of record from which the information was reported;
  • The total fiscal 2013 unobligated balances as of Oct. 1, 2013;
  • The total fiscal 2013 unspent funds as of Oct. 1, 2013.

Coburn said several agencies made smart decisions to comply with sequestration and avoid furloughs by eliminating unnecessary spending. He highlighted the departments of Education, Justice, Agriculture and Homeland Security as those who asked for the ability to transfer funds from lower-priority accounts.

But, he also had a warning for those agencies who furloughed employees and now are spending their remaining money.

"Executive and congressional branch offices should continue a wise budgeting path forward through the end of fiscal year 2013, and resist the urge to blow what is left in their bank accounts in just a few weeks," Coburn wrote. "Instead, agencies should make smart choices as they prepare for next year's budgets. Any office, department or program scurrying to spend last minute funds, while earlier in the year furloughing employees to produce savings, should be exposed for poorly managing its sequestered budget, and be subject to judicious oversight of their spending priorities."

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