Saturday, January 26, 2008

Ignoring The Inspector General

Some government officials aren't even pretending anymore. I guess they figure they've got less than a year to further screw the nation, so they've stepped up their efforts. This article in today's NY Times gives a pretty good example of what I mean.

The Education Department has brushed aside a finding by its own inspector general that a student lender improperly received $34 million in federal subsidies, and is instructing the lender to decide for itself how much money it should pay back.

In a letter sent Friday to the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency, a state-owned company that makes and guarantees student loans, the department said it had estimated the overpayment at only $15.1 million, and said in a separate letter that it agreed with only some of the findings of the inspector general. But it told the agency to calculate for itself the amount it thought it had overbilled the government. Any final payment would require the approval of the Education Department.

The agency “must provide a detailed explanation of its plan to identify affected loans and to calculate overpayments,” which would be deducted from future reimbursement requests, wrote Patricia Trubia, a department official, in the letter.

Keith New, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania agency, said it was “very pleased” with the department’s letter, and that it would continue to negotiate with the department over any repayment obligation.

“We could wind up with zero liability,” Mr. New said.
[Emphasis added]

Why, yes, Mr. New, you could, and probably will. But you better act quickly. This offer won't last forever.

I don't know which is worse: ignoring the department's own inspector general or allowing the lender to decide how much of the ill-gotten gains has to be returned. It's like a local district attorney telling a bank robber that while the police caught him in the act of stealing the money, if he'll just give some of the money back, whatever he feels like returning, then he can just go home, no further questions asked.

359 days to go.

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