A beleaguered federal agency has overspent its travel budget by at least $3 million, House investigators determined.
The Export-Import Bank allocated $1.3 million for travel this year, but is projected to spend $2.3 million, according to records obtained by The Hill.
Last year, the agency budgeted $1.2 million for travel but spent $2.2 million, and in 2012 it budgeted $1.7 million but spent $2.7 million.
Export-Import Bank officials such as Chairman and President Fred Hochberg, Vice Chairman Wanda Felton, and Director Patricia Loui are engaged in a multi-state tour to raise awareness of Ex-Im financing for small businesses while the bank’s fate hangs in the balance in Congress.
Bank officials planned to visit more than 30 cities in 10 states through this month.
Hochberg already has spent more on travel this year than last. The Ex-Im chairman racked up more than $74,160 in travel expenses in the first half of 2014 compared to $48,718 all of last year, The Hill reported.
In documents Hochberg provided to Rep. Patrick McHenry, R-N.C., chairman of the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, the bank chairman said travel is a necessity:
The primary purpose associated with the bank’s travel-related expenses support due diligence and monitoring efforts associated with a particular transaction (either under review or post authorized). The other primary purpose for travel-related expenses is business development.
But Diane Katz, research fellow in regulatory policy at The Heritage Foundation, told The Daily Signal that the bank’s travel expenses demonstrate deep problems within the agency:
Ex-Im’s indiscriminate spending is another indication of the mismanagement and dysfunction of the bank. As with the travel budget, Ex-Im officials dole out taxpayer dollars to foreign firms and foreign governments without adequate controls. That is the main problem when bureaucrats spend taxpayers’ money. They gain power through spending but face little accountability for their profligate ways.
Ex-Im provides taxpayer-backed loans and loan guarantees to foreign companies and countries to purchase U.S. products. The 80-year-old agency’s charter expires Sept. 30, and lawmakers are sparring over whether to extend it.
House Financial Services Chairman Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, is leading the charge against reauthorizing the bank. Hensarling, along with Republicans such as Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California, argue the bank is an engine of cronyism and corporate welfare.
Other Republicans and Democrats, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and President Obama, contend the the bank helps small businesses compete in growing global markets and also creates jobs.