An open-government advocacy group's survey of federal agencies, released in July, revealed that eight of them have unresolved Freedom of Information Act requests that are over a decade old, including one pending for more than 20 years. (The 1976 FOIA law requires resolution within 20 business days, with a 10-day extension under "unusual circumstances.") [National Security Archive, 7- 4-2011]
Also, regarding the FOIA, a June 2011 request by the city of Sioux City, Iowa, for background documents regarding the recent Postal Service decision to move jobs from Sioux City to Sioux Falls, S.D., was met promptly -- by the Postal Service's forecast that the likely fee for the documents would be $831,000, even though under the law the first two search hours and the first 100 documents are free. [Sioux City Journal, 7-27-2011]
In August, the Securities and Exchange Commission's inspector general revealed that a $1,200 cash award was paid by the agency in 2010 to one of the very employees who had been specifically singled out for allowing Bernard Madoff to talk his way out of SEC inquiries in 2005 and 2006, before his epic Ponzi scheme was exposed in 2008. (The IG helpfully recommended that, in the future, awards not be given to employees who have recently been facing potential disciplinary action for poor performance.) [Legal Times, 8-4-2011]
Among the aftershocks of the 9-11 attacks on America was the colossal budget-busting on "homeland security" -- a spending binge that, additionally, was thought to require something approaching uniform disbursement of funds throughout the 50 states.
(Endless "what if" possibilities left no legislator willing to forsake maximum security.)
Among the questionable projects described in a Los Angeles Times August review were the purchase of an inflatable Zodiac boat with wide-scan sonar -- in case terrorists were eyeing Lake McConaughy in Keith County, Neb.; cattle nose leads, halters and electric prods (to protect against biological attacks on cows, awarded to Cherry County, Neb.); a terrorist-proof iron fence around a Veterans Affairs hospital near Asheville, N.C.; and $557,400 in communications and rescue gear in case North Pole, Alaska, got hit. [Los Angeles Times, 8-28-2011]
The Office of Personnel Management's inspector general denounced the agency in September for promiscuously continuing to pay pension benefits to deceased federal retirees -- citing a 70 percent rise in bogus payments over the last five years. However, another federal inspector general (the Social Security Administration's) chastised its agency for the opposite reason: About 14,000 people each year are cut off from benefits after erroneously being declared dead. [Washington Post, 9-22-2011] [Chicago Tribune-CNN, 8-17-2011]