Feds Waste $890,000 Per Year on Empty Bank Account Fees

empty-Mandie- / photo on flickrThe federal government maintains thousands of bank accounts with no money in them. Do you know what happens if you have no money in a bank account? Pointless fees! To be precise:

$65 active account fee times 13,712 empty accounts equals ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME?

According to The Washington Post, the federal government is currently paying at least $890,000 a year in fees on bank accounts have have no money in them. All the government would have to do to save almost a million bucks a year is close the accounts. 

The Office of Management and Budget has actually been warning agencies about this problem for a couple of years now. And their hollering has borne some fruit. Last year, the number of zero balance accounts was 28,000. So good work, I guess.

How did the feds end up with all these sad, empty accounts? The Washington Post breaks it down:

First, a federal agency gives out a grant. It doesn’t just write a check; it creates an account within a large, government-run depository. The grantee can draw money out from there.

Then, at some point, it’s over. The money runs out. Or the grant’s time limit expires. The agency is given notice: It’s time to close the account down.

But that takes work. An agency is first required to audit the account, to make sure the money was spent properly. (In rare cases, some money is returned to the grantee, and the dead account comes alive again.) That’s generally supposed to happen within 180 days.

If it doesn’t happen, however, there is no formal consequence. And so, sometimes, it doesn’t happen.

Right now, about 7 percent of the 202,000 total government grant accounts are devoid of money. These sit on the books, costing about $5.42 per month. The service fees are the same, whether an account is full or empty.

Which means the wasted $890,000 is really just a nagging reminder that there was probably lots of other misspent money in those grants, but no one has bothered to follow up on where the money in those zero balance accounts went.

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  • ||

    Shhhh. Keep this quiet.

    You realize that to fix this will require a new sub-assistent to the deputy associate secretary of something or other and a staff of at least 15. At $200,000 burden a person, that's $3.2 million to address a problem that's a rounding error on a rounding error on a rounding error of the budget.

  • ||

    Oh, and Stimulus!

    Particularly, Stimulus to the hard-hit Banking Industry!

  • robc||

    I would think the Feds would have enough money in their total accounts that they would get fee-free accounts.

  • NeonCat||

    And free toasters. Where did the toasters go? Will we have Toastergate?

    And if the Feds were opening accounts without getting something in return, what the hell is wrong with them?

  • Mo||

    They're government owned depository. So while the fact that these accounts remain opened are ludicrous, they're paper transfer costs rather than actual cash costs. This would be similar to the costs that the Microsoft Surface team incurs paying the Windows group for their OS. In the end it's just MSFT moving money internally.

  • ||

    The accounts would have money if not for the SEQUESTER!

  • Dr. Frankenstein||

    We can't be out of money. We still have checks.

  • UnCivilServant||

    It's the feds - they still have printing presses.

  • some guy||

    Come on. Closing bank accounts to save the US govt 65$/yr is like me stopping for 5 seconds to pick up a penny. In fact it may be worse than that because we have to pay some idiot 40$ an hour plus overhead and benefits to go close the accounts. So it's more like dropping a nickel while bending over to pick up a penny.

    If we really want to end this waste we need keep these accounts from ever existing in the first place.

  • Jon Lester||

    Well, some of us actually do stop to pick up pennies. You never know when you might be short one or two to cover sales tax on something.

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