Your Tax Dollars…Down the Drain: Critical Job Training Funds Wasted on Personal Spending Sprees 

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio) today released the latest example in a monthly series highlighting Washington’s wasteful spending during a time of record debt:

Job Corps, a Department of Labor program that aims to prepare struggling 16-24 year old youths for the workforce by providing free education and vocational training, has been spending your hard-earned tax money on a lot more than just job training, according to a new Inspector General (IG)’s report.

The IG report found that Job Corps participants used their taxpayer-funded travel debit cards to buy everything from expensive haircuts and clothes at J.C. Penney to smart phones. At just one Jobs Corps Center in Miami, 1,832 cards were used to make improper purchases totaling $96,784. In Greenville, Kentucky, $16,000 from 478 cards was spent on clothes alone.

Additionally, since Job Corps pre-paid the full value for the debit cards before the cards were handed out, 4,026 debit cards with $29,204 worth of unused balances were voluntarily thrown out as waste in the most literal sense of the word. In total the improper purchases and actions amounted to at least $249,477, and the report identified at least $4 million in “questioned purchase card transactions” due to lack of documentation.

“It’s a shame when we see such clear examples of waste from the federal workforce development programs that go beyond the inefficiencies and overlap that have needed reform, particularly at a time when so many people are struggling to find jobs because they lack the skills companies are looking for,” said Portman. “We must ensure that hard-earned taxpayer dollars intended to get workers back on a career path are spent wisely.”  

The Job Corps program lacks a basic system of internal controls. The report stressed the importance of a thorough system of internal controls for all government programs using debit cards and estimated a savings of $5.1 million for Job Corps if and when such a system is implemented.

Fraudulent debit card purchases are one portion of a broader pattern of mismanagement in federal job training programs. Portman, who for years has worked to make these programs more efficient, recently voted to re-authorize the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), which includes important reforms that will help cut down on waste in our important job training programs. All four key components of bipartisan workforce development legislation authored by Portman, known as the Careers Through Responsive, Efficient, and Effective Retraining (CAREER) Act, were reflected in the final package.