Goodlatte Criticizes USDA for Misappropriation of Funds
Washington, DC — Today, the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Department Operations, Oversight, Nutrition and Forestry, led by Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) roundly condemned the abuse of authority and misuse of taxpayer dollars in the questionable administration of the USDA's Urban Resources Partnership (URP) Program.
In 1994, the Office of the Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment initiated URP ostensibly to provide conservation technical assistance and financial support to urban communities. However, an audit performed by USDA's own Inspector General revealed that the program lacked statutory authority to spend the $20 million dollars used to implement the program.
"This is simply another example of waste, fraud and abuse on the watch of USDA officials. America taxpayers deserve a Department of Agriculture that conducts its agencies and programs efficiently and responsibly," Goodlatte said. "The URP Program is yet another example of a creative idea that has been dealt a debilitating blow by Department mismanagement and complacency. It is high time for USDA to be held accountable to a higher standard of service."
In addition to this lack of Congressional approval, the audit also revealed that funds originally appropriated for agriculture conservation measures, were subsequently diverted to questionable uses such as:
1. Paying transportation costs for Sierra Club outings in Los Angeles;
2. Hiring an artist to paint murals on residential buildings in Los Angeles;
3. Backing a lawsuit against owners of derelict properties in East St. Louis, Ill; and
4. Providing almost $750,000 for salaries and benefits of coordinators for the urban projects, even though they were not federal employees.
"This money would have gone to programs originally destined for America's struggling farming and ranching communities," Goodlatte said. "To quote the OIG's audit the 'URP was implemented without specific statutory authority, appropriated funds, or issuance of regulations. The Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment initiated URP by directing other USDA agencies to implement the "initiative" using funds appropriated for other programs… As a result, over $20 million in USDA funds were improperly expended or obligated for the URP program during FY's 1994 through 1998'."