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Julian , California
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May 2, 2018     The Julian News
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May 2, 2018
 

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The Julian News 11 California Commentary The Federal Government Right To Audit California Bullet Train Project by Jon Coupal May 2, 2018 * * * Jon Coupal is the president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association. ® 2018 King Features Syndicate, Inc. ® 2018 King Features Syndicate, Inc. Last week, the federal government announced that it would audit California’s high- speed rail project. This is welcome news for those who have believed from the very inception of the project that it was doomed to failure. Bullet train cheerleaders and their allies in the California Legislature have worked hard to conceal the true status of the project as well as its viability. Only recently, after years of rising costs and blown deadlines, has the legislature finally agreed to conduct its own audit. Whether the state audit will be meaningful remains to be seen, given the enormous political pressure to paint Gov. Jerry Brown’s pet project in the most favorable light. Certainly the federal government is more likely than the state to conduct a serious and impartial audit. The audit will be conducted by United States Office of Inspector General for the U.S. Department of Transportation. Like other OIGs — there are 73 such offices in the federal government — the inspector general will employ both forensic auditors and a variety of other specialists. Their mission includes the detection and prevention of fraud, waste, abuse and mismanagement of government programs and operations. The scope of the audit is key. This will be far more than an “internal controls” financial audit to see if the flow of funds into and out of a government agency is supported by the proper paperwork. Financial audits typically do not assess whether a program or government operation is achieving its goals. For that, a performance audit is needed. A performance audit is an independent examination of a program, function, operation or the management systems and procedures of a governmental or non-profit entity to assess whether the entity is achieving economy, efficiency and effectiveness in the employment of available resources — in other words, whether money is being wasted. In announcing the audit, the OIG stated that the Federal Railroad Administration has disbursed $8.6 billion for high- speed passenger rail, nearly 39 percent of that funding dedicated to the California high-speed rail project. At Congress’ request, the OIG will “assess FRA’s (1) risk analysis, assessment, and mitigation efforts—particularly regarding the availability of non-Federal matching funds, business plans, and financial reporting — and (2) procedures for determining whether Federal funds expended complied with applicable Federal laws and regulations.” By specifically referencing high-speed rail’s “business plan,” the OIG may be signaling its intention to assess the viability of the entire project, and perhaps to recommend whether federal involvement should be terminated entirely. For taxpayers, it would also be beneficial if the OIG investigated the extent to which those with a financial interest in the bullet train exerted influence on policy makers with campaign contributions or by any other means. Billions of dollars — from both federal and California taxpayers — have already been expended on the high-speed rail project. There may be those who will argue that an audit now is akin to closing the barn door after the horse is out. But much more spending is planned, and for decades. A comprehensive performance audit conducted by a competent, aggressive and impartial entity is absolutely necessary. There should be real accountability for this out-of- control boondoggle, and maybe that will help to avoid similar fiscal train wrecks in the future. Once the OIG audit is completed, Californians may demand the ultimate in accountability: an opportunity to vote on the high-speed rail project once again. • It was Hungarian psychiatrist Thomas Stephen Szasz who made the following sage observation: "If you talk to God, you are praying. If God talks to you, you have schizophrenia." • That iconic symbol of the Old West, the Pony Express, was based on the mail system used throughout the Mongol Empire in the 13th century. However, the Mongol riders often covered 125 miles in a single day, which was faster than the best record held by a Pony Express rider. • Someone with way too much spare time discovered that a quarter has 119 grooves on its edge. • What's in a name? A great deal, it turns out, if you're talking about housing prices. Those who study such things say that a house on a "boulevard" is valued at over one- third more than the same house that has "street" in its address. • Confectioner Milton Hershey suffered through founding two candy companies that ended in failure, then succeeded on his third attempt, and finally sold that company and used the proceeds to found the Hershey Company. After all his hard work, though, he seemed to be less interested in enjoying the fruits of his labors than in helping others. In 1909 he established the Hershey Industrial School for Orphaned Boys, and 10 years later he donated control of the company to a trust for the school. Today the institution is called the Milton Hershey School, and it continues to have a controlling interest in the candy company. • Southern California has more cars than India has cows. If cows are sacred in India, what does that say about how Californians feel about their automobiles? * * * Thought for the Day: "Men are not against you; they are merely for themselves." -- Gene Fowler * * * In education, technology can be a life-changer, a game changer, for kids who are both in school and out of school. Technology can bring textbooks to life. The Internet can connect students to their peers in other parts of the world. It can bridge the quality gaps. — Queen Rania of Jordan * * * * * * Music is the movement of sound to reach the soul for the education of its virtue. — Plato * * * Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world. — Nelson Mandela * * *