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Waste not

The Department of Education is again coming under fire from congressional Republicans who say it may be hampered by waste and abuse.

In a report released last month, Republicans on the House Budget Committee aimed allegations of mismanagement at the Education Department and five other federal agencies. They contend that the department is full of unneeded and duplicative programs, and that it may be wasting hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.

The committee held a hearing Feb. 17 to address its concerns, calling Lorraine Pratt Lewis, the Education Department's inspector general, to explain why the agency's audits for the 1998 and 1999 fiscal years had been designated "incomplete" by an independent accounting firm.

"Why are Department of Education officials incapable of even estimating the amount of fraud and waste they experience? Why are their books in such poor shape that they cannot be audited?" Rep. John R. Kasich, the Ohio Republican who chairs the committee, asked in a prepared statement.

Rep. Peter Hoekstra, R-Mich., leveled similar complaints during an oversight hearing he held in December, and he plans to hold another hearing this week. ("Hoekstra Accuses Ed. Dept. of Mismanaging Funds," Dec. 15, 1999.)

Ms. Lewis acknowledged to committee members that the department has "significant internal-control weaknesses" in its accounting system. But she said it was in the process of switching to a new system that should provide more accurate results. And the department is working with the Internal Revenue Service to better manage its student-loan programs, she said.

"We will continue to work with the department and Congress," she said.

Mr. Kasich vowed that the committee would continue its investigations in coming months, and he asked other congressional-committee leaders to do the same.

—Joetta L. Sack

Vol. 19, Issue 25, Page 28

Published in Print: March 1, 2000, as Federal File

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