Portman, Carper Demand Federal Agencies Explain Inability to Provide Basic Information on Government Shutdown Costs

PSI Report Estimated Recent Shutdowns Cost Taxpayers Nearly $4 Billion, But the Cost is Likely Much Higher Due to the Inability of All Federal Agencies to Provide Complete Information

September 20, 2019 | Press Releases

 WASHINGTON, DC – Today, U.S. Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Tom Carper (D-DE), the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, sent letters to nine federal departments and agencies seeking an explanation as to why they were unable to provide complete information about employee furloughs and back pay for the last three government shutdowns. In a stunning new report issued by the Subcommittee on Tuesday, investigators found that the combined costs of the last three complete or partial government shutdowns cost American taxpayers nearly $4 billion, including $3.7 billion in back pay for furloughed employees and $338 million in additional costs. 

However, certain federal departments and agencies, including the Department of Justice, the Department of Defensethe Department of Agriculture, and the Environmental Protection Agency, were unable to estimate the amount of back pay provided to furloughed workers after shutdowns, raising serious concerns about the capacity of those departments and agencies to oversee their operations and implement basic accounting systems and practices. Combined, the nine departments and agencies who received letters employ about half of the federal workforce, meaning that the actual amount that taxpayers paid as a result of the recent government shutdowns is likely much higher due to a greater amount of back pay and additional associated costs. 

“Although we appreciated the Department’s cooperation with some aspects of the Subcommittee’s investigation, we are concerned you were unable to provide complete information about employee furloughs and back pay from the last three government shutdowns in response to the Subcommittee’s inquiry,” Senators Portman and Carper wrote in their letter to nine federal departments and agencies.  “The inability to provide all of the information we requested raises serious questions about your Department’s ability to perform effective oversight of its operations, and about your Department’s ability to maintain basic accounting systems and practices.  As such, we request a briefing by October 3, 2019 from your staff on why the Department was unable to provide this information and the specific efforts being taken to address these deficiencies.” 

NOTE: Portman and Carper wrote letters to the following nine departments and agencies that failed to provide full and complete information about employee furloughs and back pay for one or more of the last three shutdowns: the Department of Agriculture (discussed specifically on page 152 of the report), the Department of Commerce (page 145), the Department of Defense (page 177), the Department of the Interior (page 158), the Department of Justice (page 118), the Department of Transportation (page 53), the Environmental Protection Agency (page 123), the General Services Administration (page 134), and the Small Business Administration (page 97).