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One of the things that most scares me about the current administration is the terrible — and possibly long-term — erosive effect it is having on the entire executive branch. One of the best books to document this systemic tragedy is Michael Lewis’ Fifth Risk: Undoing Democracy (many libraries have access to it via Overdrive so check your local public library. They’re still working hard even during the pandemic!)
If you can’t get your hands on Lewis’ book, then check out the American Prospect, which has done a massive investigation into the Trump administration’s dodgy practices.
In three years as president, he has transformed the executive branch into a giant favor factory, populated with the agents or willing partners of virtually every special interest. Add up all the routine, daily outrages—the quasi-bribery and quasi-extortion, the private raids on public funds, the handouts to the undeserving, the massive flow of cash, jobs, and freebies back in return—and Trump’s attempt to squeeze a little re-election help out of the fragile government of a desperate Eastern European country does not loom particularly large in the reckoning … The Trump administration has brought its brand of corruption and self-dealing to every agency in the federal government, and it’s hard for anyone to keep on top of it all. We’ve mapped it out for you. Click on any agency building below, and unlock an extensive dossier of the activities happening inside.
via Mapping Corruption.
2019 is not starting off on a good foot for the Government Publishing Office (GPO). NPR reports that in June 2018, GPO’s Office of Inspector General sent an interim report to the Joint Committee on Printing (JCP), the congressional committee that oversees the agency finding mismanagement, misuse of position, and disregard” for hiring and contracting rules. We’ll see how this plays out, and hopefully it won’t negatively effect the working of the Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP) which GPO runs in collaboration with 1100+ libraries across the US.
It’s important to note that this isn’t the first time that GPO has found itself in hot water, and this allegation, in my opinion, sounds like a single instance of personnel issue gone bad, not a case of massive organizational corruption. Remember that in 2007 – 2008, GPO’s leadership — not coincidentally led by the Trump Administration’s current nominee for GPO Director and former public printer Robert C. Tapella! — was caught in a case of outsourcing and massively overcharging the State Department for the sale of millions of blank passports and then going on spending sprees and travel junkets in order to spend the ill-gained profits. The story was covered by the Washington Times and also republished on a bulletin board of a right wing political bulletin board.
Allegations of cronyism, wasteful spending and other misconduct are roiling a little-known federal agency in charge of producing and distributing the government’s official documents, including paper questionnaires for the upcoming 2020 census.According to an internal watchdog report obtained by NPR, two officials at the U.S. Government Publishing Office — previously known as the Government Printing Office — allegedly violated federal laws and regulations by filling agency jobs with unqualified candidates, including an official’s son. The GPO’s Office of Inspector General has not finalized its findings, but in June, it sent an interim report to the joint congressional committee that oversees the agency.
Lawmakers on the Senate Rules and Administration Committee have “sought additional information regarding allegations of misconduct at the GPO,” according to Katie Boyd, spokeswoman for Chairman Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo. His committee shares oversight of the GPO with the House Administration Committee.
The inspector general’s office found “mismanagement, misuse of position, and disregard” for hiring and contracting rules by two of the agency’s most senior managers over the course of four years, beginning in 2014 during the Obama administration, according to the report.
New Database: UN Office on Drugs and Crime and World Bank Group Launch New Anti-Corruption Legal Library With Legislation From
The UNCAC Legal Library is a comprehensive database of anti-corruption and asset recovery legislation and jurisprudence from over 175 States, systematized in accordance with the requirements of the Convention. The Legal Library, which will be regularly updated, identifies laws that have been successfully used to recover assets as well as barriers to asset recovery caused by inadequate or incompatible legal frameworks. This practical and user-friendly resource will aid countries as they design and improve their legal frameworks so that these are more conducive to the recovery of stolen assets.
Finally, you’ll find a link to background about the new TRACK (Tools and Resources for Anti-Corruption Knowledge) portal also from the UN Office on Drugs and Crime.
Before I begin, I would like to first thank Mr. Jacobs for the opportunity to contribute to this blog. Hopefully I can provide some new perspectives about government information through the eyes of an (aspiring) economist.
There is no doubt that E-Government is all the rage these days. One justification for E-Government is that technology makes government more transparent, and transparency deters corruption. To the best of my knowledge, there are actually few studies that look at whether E-Government actually prevents the government from behaving badly. There is one recent study by Anderson in Information Economics and Policy that attempts to identify this relationship.
Using an indexes for corruption and E-Government, he confirms that E-Government can indeed reduce corruption, even after “controlling for any propensity for corrupt governments to be more or less aggressive in adopting e-government initiatives.” (pg 210) A broader claim one may extrapolate from this study is that transparency prevents corruption.
E-Government acts as a mechanism for transparency, in a similar manner as media/press. That said, a study by Snyder and Stromberg finds that American politicians don’t work as hard (for their constituents) if they receive less press coverage.
One advantage of E-Government is that the government knows more about their inner workings than information starved reporters. The trade-off though is that government can cherry-pick what information is revealed; why would any rational corrupt government official agree to reveal information that supports claims of his bad behavior? To that end, reporters in search for political scandals are more likely to shine the light on bad behavior than E-Government.