Reckless Federal Shopping Spree Could Squander $50 Billion

Money - Public Domain

Today marks the end of the federal government’s fiscal year. It’s also the biggest one-day shopping spree of the year– the day when federal agencies rush to spend the last of their money before October 1, before anything left over is returned to the Treasury.

Since agencies cannot carry over unspent funds, the idea is “use it or lose it.” If they don’t spend the money, Congress may not allocate as much the following year. The system typically creates panic for federal workers scrambling to spend millions of dollars before they run out of time. It also means a huge payday for contractors scoring big awards.

Last year, the government spent about $50 billion the week before October 1, according to NPR’s Shankar Vedantam. That total included apparent impulse buys like artwork worth $562,000 for the Department of Veterans Affairs, and toner cartridges worth $144,000 for the Department of Agriculture, as noted last year by The Washington Post. It also included $178,000 worth of “Cubicle Furniture Rehab” for the U.S. Coast Guard.

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