During the worst economic downturn in decades, the federal program that provides free legal help to impoverished Americans has spent tax dollars on a decorative natural-stone wall, no-bid contracts for consultants, alcohol for a congressional party and more than 100 casino hotel rooms that were never occupied, government documents show.
The IG found that 37 of the 38 consultant contracts it reviewed had not been competitively bid and that in nearly every case the required “exception process” for skipping bidding wasn’t followed. “Competing contracts helps ensure that LSC receives best value in accordance with its policies,” the IG admonished in its report.
For instance, in January 2008, LSC hosted an event in the U.S. Capitol’s Lyndon Baines Johnson Room for members of Congress and staff, taking care to print on the invitation that “no federal funds are being used.”
But, according to the IG report, $5,000 was in fact put on an LSC credit card, and tax dollars were used to pay for alcohol, food, awards and photography at the event.
the Associated Press – also found that federal dollars were used by LSC to give interest-free loans, without any contracts, to employees for computers and for down payments on personal residences. Federal money was used to pay for lobbying registration fees as well.
The whistle-blowing and the questioning of expenses are sensitive issues since the board that governs LSC considered firing then-Inspector General Kirt West for exposing embarrassing expenditures on behalf of LSC officials in 2006. He found that the officials had charged LSC for the $14 Death by Chocolate desserts and for limousine service from LSC’s Georgetown headquarters to Capitol Hill. Mr. West also said LSC was paying as much as $7 million too much in rent for its Georgetown address. The discussions about his ouster sent shock waves through the agency a few years ago.