Government Spending

Feds Spent Millions of Dollars to Find Data That Was Publicly Available and Free



It turns out that the government department tasked with promoting economic growth and job creation has been charging government agencies millions of dollars for data that could have been found on Google. According to the Government Accountability Office, "The source that most often had the reports GAO was searching for was another website located at"  

From The Washington Times:

Congress's top auditor said Tuesday that the Commerce Department has been charging other government agencies millions of dollars for reports that the other agencies could just as easily have gotten online, for free.

Follow these stories and more at Reason 24/7 and don't forget you can e-mail stories to us at and tweet us at @reason247.

NEXT: Cuba to Return Parents Accused of Kidnapping Their Children to the US

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Congress’s top auditor said Tuesday that the Commerce Department has been charging other government agencies millions of dollars for reports that the other agencies could just as easily have gotten online, for free.

    The GAO stumbled across this fact while doing a Bing search for the adult film Cummer’s Claws.

    1. I’d laugh at your joke, but then I realized you were probably serious…and correct 🙁

  2. OT: Ronald Reagan’s corpse beats Obama in hypothetical election.

    1. Didn’t [cardboard cutout] also beat Obama for the 2012 election? Yeah. Instead they ran Romney.

      1. Of course they did. He was the only serious candidate.

        1. IT WAS ROMNEY’S TURN!

          And McCain’s before…

          1. And Bob Dole well before that.

  3. What does it mean when one government agency charges another one for services? Isn’t that just shuffling money around to be wasted in different ways than it was going to be wasted before?

    1. I was wondering about that, too.

      It’s a bunch of men in a burlap sack swapping hats for a living.

      1. Like when government employees get taxed. The government pays them so it can take the money back before it ever…leaves their coffers?

        1. Raising taxes on government workers = we didn’t pay the workers quite as much.

        2. Yeah, but if they didn’t do that government employees wouldn’t be subject to the incentive effects of the tax code (mortgages, child credits, etc.) and unless they did some extra complicated wage changes tacked on to every tax bill they wouldn’t have a stake in tax rate changes.

    2. Sounds like a scam to me.

    3. It does sound weird, but I worked for a company that did the same thing. IIRC Boeing pioneered this idea. Each division has to include in its budgets, purchases from other divisions within the company. The idea being that it is costing the company (e.g. Boeing) overall if one division is doing work for another.

      However, divisions can also transfer funds to another division if they choose.

      Bottom line: the idea is you budget tighter and be more aware of costs overall.

      1. This clearly works as the Federal Government has been nothing but tight with the purse strings over the last 70 years.

      2. It’s an accounting trick I learned about watching Monty Python.

        It’s the same as the machine that goes “Ping”.

        “Ah, I see you have the machine that goes ‘Ping’. It’s my favorite. You see, we lease this machine back from the company we sold it to, that way it comes under the monthly current budget and not the capital account”

        (polite applause)

    4. It can mean a lot of things.

      Sometimes it’s just a straight “Hey, you’re doing something similar, here’s some money to put on your contract along with an expansion that covers our work too.” In my opinion there’s no reason for this to be anything other than a simple transfer of your budget to the other agency, since the other agency should already have the personnel in place to manage it.

      Then you have agencies that exist to provide services to other agencies. The Naval Research Lab is like this. They have a fund of tax money they can draw on and they get reimbursed for it by the requesting agency. Sometimes these agencies will demand a service charge on top of the cost, other times they’ll detail a dedicated manager and charge his rates.

      Other agencies do what is pretty much straight up money laundering in my opinion. They charge a service fee as a percentage of the costs (because it’s totally harder to manage more money) and sometimes even fees on top of that. NASA charges a “Research Fund” fee, God only knows what that goes for. I call it money laundering because those types of fees become slush funds that the servicing agency can use for anything they want regardless of the original appropriation.

  4. In a related story – colleges charge $300 a credit hour to grade papers already found on google. Said funds for colleges come from commerce department.

  5. This is reason 7,892,427 that the federal govt should be dismantled and all the slugs sent packing.

  6. Oh, and all of you debating the merits/demerits of one agency charging another are overlooking the mind numbing fact that the info was available for free on google.

    Government slugs justifying their own existence by filling out requisitions and no doubt countless other forms, grinding all that shit through the system for info any chimp could have googled up in 30 seconds free of charge.

    Like I said, reason number 7,892,…..oh fuck who is counting anymore.

    1. oh fuck who is counting anymore

      I’ll bet we can get a government agency to charge another government agency to find out.

      1. I’ll bet we can get a government agency to pay another country’s government agency to find out.

        1. Its cross-charging all the way down.

    2. Actually the fact that the data was available for free on Google is not the most important fact.

      As an interdepartmental transfer no actual money gets spent, the important question is what did the Commerce Department do with the money? Did they actually have an entire team of guys meticulously recreate datasets which already existed? Did they use it to fund their weekly hookers and blow parties? Or, was it used to fund other activities that the department engages in which are at least nominally of benefit and within their authority (and I say nominally because I’m sure that most of us would argue that the Dept of Commerce shouldn’t even exist)?

      If it is the 3rd option then this is really not a story, if it is the first two then it is a classic example of government waste.

  7. It’s sad when you realize people think the same institution should be doing many more things on a much larger skill.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.