By Dustin Hurst | Watchdog.org
IDAHO FALLS, Idaho – Why is a one-room library in a tiny West Virginia community running internet through a $20,000 router designed for mid- to large-scale business operations?
That’s precisely what the state’s legislative auditing division wanted to know, so it did some digging. It turned up more stimulus waste.
In a new report, the state found the expensive routers were handed out to numerous government agencies in a careless manner, which wasted more than $5 million in taxpayer cash.
One of the routers found its way to the Marmet Public Library, which, interestingly enough, still encourages patrons to print documents off floppy disks.
Here’s the rundown via ARS Technica:
In an absolutely scathing report (PDF) just released by the state’s legislative auditor, West Virginia officials are accused of overspending at least $5 million of federal money on such routers, installed indiscriminately in both large institutions and one-room libraries across the state. The routers were purchased without ever asking the state’s libraries, cops, and schools what they needed. And when distributed, the expensive routers were passed out without much apparent care. The small town of Clay received seven of them to serve a total population of 491 people… and all seven routers were installed within only .44 miles of each other at a total cost of more than $100,000.
Marmet’s library operates three days a week. The city boasts a mere 1,500 residents.
The state places some of the blame on Cisco, which sold the state the pricey equipment.
In total, $24 million was spent on the routers through a not-very-open bidding process under which non-Cisco router manufacturers such as Juniper and Alcatel-Lucent were not “given notice or any opportunity to bid.” As for Cisco, which helped put the massive package together, the legislative auditor concluded that the company “had a moral responsibility to propose a plan which reasonably complied with Cisco’s own engineering standards” but that instead “Cisco representatives showed a wanton indifference to the interests of the public in recommending using $24 million of public funds to purchase 1,164 Cisco model 3945 branch routers.”
The money came from President Barack Obama’s 2009 $800 billion stimulus package, which offered cash for broadband upgrades.
Of course, this is hardly the first story on stimulus waste. Johnny Kampis over at Missouri Watchdog wrote just today about billions of dollars in project money sitting unused or expired across the country. Read that piece here.
Contact: Dustin@Watchdog.org or @DustinHurst via Twitter.