Rife fraud: ‘Obamaphone’ program hid $9B in private banks
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) released the report on Thursday shedding new light on Obama’s free cellphone program to the poor – officially called the “Lifeline Program” — which is raising more concern about the giveaway that has become a symbol of the former administration’s frivolous government waste.
Abuse of taxpayer funds …
Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) requested the GAO report, which divulges that Obama’s program has stashed some $9 billion in assets in private bank accounts – instead of putting it in the federal treasure – an action that escalates the risks of taxpayers not being able to receive the money’s full benefit.
“A complete lack of oversight is causing this program to fail the American taxpayer – everything that could go wrong is going wrong,” McCaskill argued, according to the Washington Times.
The former auditor for the state of Missouri – who serves as a ranking Democrat on the United States Senate’s chief oversight committee – is looking into things that the Obama administration did not care to examine for itself.
“We’re currently letting phone companies cash a government check every month with little more than the honor system to hold them accountable, and that simply can’t continue,” McCaskill added.
The Federal Communications Commissions-run Obamaphone program reportedly predates Obama, yet it attracted more attention during his administration as phone recipients started to link their free phones with other handouts given to the poor under his directives.
Numbers do the talking
Under the Obama administration’s problematic program, massive abuses of taxpayer money has been revealed through startling statistics.
“Some 10.6 million people have an Obamaphone, but 36 percent of them may not qualify, investigators said after sampling the population and finding a huge chunk of people couldn’t prove they were eligible,” the Washington Times’ Stephen Dinan reported. “More than 5,500 people were found to be enrolled for two phones, while the program was paying for nearly 6,400 phones for persons the government has listed as having died.”
And with virtually no oversight, the program is expected to incur even more abuse into the future.
“Investigators also submitted fraudulent applications to see what would happen, and 12 of the 19 phone carriers they applied to approved a phone,” Dinan added.
It is also reported that the release of information about the programs’ abuses were kept under wraps for way too long.
“Fraudulent findings [were] released in the 90-page report [indicating that] ‘Obamaphone’ fraud [was] kept quiet until after the program expanded,” Fox News stated.
And the justification behind the program is questionable – at best.
“The theory behind the program was that poor people needed a phone to apply for a job or conduct other business in the modern economy, so they were provided with what was supposed to be a low-cost, limited-service benefit,” Dinan informed. “Though the program is administered by the federal government, funding comes from cellphone carriers, who pass the costs on to customers through the universal service fee charge that many see on their monthly bills.”
The GAO issued the report on Thursday as just one of its latest in a series, as the government’s chief watchdog group warned the Obama administration numerous times through previous reports that the Obamaphone program opened the door to “double-dipping.” It noted that the FCC did not have an effective means in place to monitor whether or not the program accomplished what it set out to do.
“The FCC had promised to make changes, but the new report says those have fallen short,” Dinan recounted. “GAO investigators questioned whether the program is even needed anymore.”
According to the GAO, the phones are actually affordable for almost anyone, as phone prices and the cost of many service plans have dropped considerably, but the government continues to pick up the tab.
Today, the necessity of the Obamaphone program is questioned more than ever.
“While the program is facilitated by the federal government, phone companies distribute the phones, which are then paid for in the fees that customers pay on their phone plans,” SarahPalin.com’s Mary Kate Knorr reported. “The government watchdog questioned in the report whether the program was even necessary anymore, arguing cellphone plans have become so cheap that virtually anyone could afford one.”
In fact, those receiving the freebees would have no problem paying for their own cellphones – if asked.
“Investigators also found that without the free government phone, many recipients would gladly pay for the services on their own anyway,” Dinan pointed out. “In its official response, the FCC called the GAO’s report ‘thoughtful’ and promised to try to clean up the program. It said it’s already taken steps to improve the situation.”