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Secretary Sebelius, Meet The Anti-Deficiency Act.

Oh Dear! Should HHS Not Have Done That?

It is “unacceptable that HHS fails to maintain accurate financial records and fails to adhere to federal law designed to protect taxpayer dollars from mismanagement and waste,” Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., and Rep. Charles Boustany, R-La., wrote in a Monday letter to the department’s secretary, Kathleen Sebelius.

(HT:Federal Times)

The USG may not appear to have a very tight wrap on how and where it’s dollars (expropriated or borrowed) get dispersed. This is particularly true when the US Senate has gone over 1,000 days without the benefit of an actual budget resolution instead of a legislative gimmick that relieves them of that responsibility.

However, in the street-level reality inhabited by people who actually handle government funds, tight and exacting regulations do exist. One very important one is The Anti-Deficiancy Act which is described below.

The Anti-Deficiency Act prohibits federal employees from
• making or authorizing an expenditure from, or creating or authorizing an obligation under, any appropriation or fund in excess of the amount available in the appropriation or fund unless authorized by law. 31 U.S.C. § 1341(a)(1)(A).
• involving the government in any obligation to pay money before funds have been appropriated for that purpose, unless otherwise allowed by law. 31 U.S.C. § 1341(a)(1)(B).
• accepting voluntary services for the United States, or employing personal services not authorized by law, except in cases of emergency involving the safety of human life or the protection of property. 31 U.S.C. § 1342.
• making obligations or expenditures in excess of an apportionment or reapportionment, or in excess of the amount permitted by agency regulations. 31 U.S.C. § 1517(a).

(HT: Gao.gov)

It seems the accounting firm of Ernest and Young has audited the books at HHS. This occurred in response to HHS identifying and declaring several violations of the Anti-Deficiancy Act. The audit turned over several large rocks and found even more things that stunk in the books of the HHS.

At present, HHS reports $500M in discrepancies between what they admit to have spent and what the US Treasury agrees that they were authorized and should have spent. Ernest and Young claims the discrepancy involves an additional $900M that the HHS does not currently adequately account for. Sen. Coburn and Rep. Boustany want to know exactly who in HHS made these regrettable “oversights” and if they were related to the American Affordable Care Act.

The Members of Congress in question apparently don’t believe that not reporting $900M in spending is an acceptable methodology by which healthcare can become more affordable. The rest of us shouldn’t either. But then again, when the US Senate cannot even be bothered with debating and formulating a budget for over 1,000 days, it’s not exactly surprising to see mid-level bureaucrats honoring Federal Budgetary Jurisprudence in the breach.

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