‘Profiles in Waste’ is a series highlighting some of the smaller abuses of your tax dollars. Although small compared to viral billion dollar waste, effective oversight means finding the small before it turns into the big.
This week we highlight the Computers for Learning (CFL) program. The CFL program was established in 1996 in response to an executive order (EO) signed by President Bill Clinton. CFL was created to “ensure American children [had] the skills needed to succeed in the 21st century,” thus the EO essentially streamlined the transfer of excess and surplus federal computer equipment to schools and nonprofits.
Each federal agency is required to identify educationally useful federal equipment that it no longer needs and transfer it to a school or nonprofit. Agencies either deal with schools or nonprofits directly or use the CFL website administered by the General Services Administration (GSA).
The website displays available federal IT equipment and allows schools and educational nonprofits to request equipment based on their need. In order to use the website, schools and educational nonprofits must register and provide valid credentials and paperwork. However, while GSA verifies eligible schools through a Department of Education database, it does not verify any information from educational nonprofits, making the database a target for fraudulent activity.
According to a recent report, “GSA does not have adequate controls to prevent ineligible organizations from registering and receiving donations of IT equipment.” As a result, in 2016, ineligible nonprofits received over $2.5 million in federally owned IT equipment. Further, GSA does not monitor ineligible recipients because it is the donating agency’s job to check, but almost 40% of agencies sampled did not know they were required to ensure organizations were eligible and met requirements.
This new report documents CFL’s internal inefficiencies and makes recommendations to fix them. But this is not the first time problems have been found in this program. Unfortunately, millions have already been lost to waste, fraud, and abuse, yet little has been done despite the program’s newsworthy fraud revelations. A few high profile cases include:
Interested in doing your own research? Check out our Agency Toolkit, a compilation of the best government reports. In addition, you can search for more waste from GSA here, on the GSA reports homepage.