Taxpayers for Common Sense: Forest Service Misplaced $215 Million In Firefighting Funds

WASHINGTON, Aug. 22, 2002 /U.S. Newswire/ -- In a memo obtained from
the Forest Service by Taxpayers for Common Sense, Forest Service
Chief Dale Bosworth disclosed to Forest Service region officials
that fire suppression costs for 2002 are now projected to be
between $1.3 and $1.5 billion. Bosworth also made known an
accounting error that led to $215 million in firefighting funds
being misplaced.

"In a record-spending fire season it is vital that the Forest
Service be held accountable as to how it spends taxpayer money,"
said Eric Lynch, Policy Analyst at Taxpayers for Common Sense.
"The President says the Forest Service needs more freedom when it
actually needs more public scrutiny."

"How in the world does an agency lose hundreds of million of
dollars so desperately needed to help extinguish fires in the
West?" said Lynch. "Either the Forest Service has been using an
abacus to account for its wildfire funds or they are employing a
few accountants at Arthur Anderson."

In the memo, Bosworth stated that the error was the result of a
year-end account reconciliation in FY 2001 that mistakenly reduced
these much-needed funds for wildfire management.

Over the last decade, the Forest Service has failed eight out of
ten Inspector General audits. "This error was the result of an
agency that has been wrought with fiscal mismanagement and
unaccountability. It confirms that the Forest Service is one of
our nation's most mismanaged government agencies," continued Lynch.

Although the Forest Service auditing error resulted in
additional funds now being made available for fire suppression, the
lack of a viable financial system continues to cost taxpayers
millions of dollars.

"The tragedy here is that the misplaced millions could have been
spent to reduce fire risk long before this year's fires ravaged the
west," continued Lynch.

Even the windfall from this accounting error is going to do
little to reverse the financial misfortunes of the agency.

As Chief Bosworth states, "it is apparent these additional funds
will only mitigate the possibility of harsh actions that could
affect the employment and morale of the workforce." The lack of
trustworthy accounting has left thousands of Forest Service
employees fearing that they will soon be faced with unpaid leave,
as suggested in an earlier memo from Chief Bosworth.

"Burning Western communities are in dire need of these funds.
The administration's complacency with continuous financial
mismanagement of this agency contradicts recent demands upon
corporate CEOs to sign statements of accountability for their
company's finances. It is time government officials be held to the
same standards," concluded Lynch.

If you would like a copy of the Forest Service memo, please call
202-546-8500 ext. 110 or email

Taxpayers for Common Sense is a non-partisan voice for American
taxpayers. TCS is dedicated to cutting wasteful spending and
subsidies in order to achieve a responsible and efficient
government that lives within its means.

In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, any copyrighted work in this message is distributed under fair use without profit or payment for non-profit research and educational purposes only. [Ref.]


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