Get to Bottom Of Router Fiasco

When President Barack Obama’s administration began handing out $800 billion in “stimulus” funding, we warned waste and perhaps outright fraud in spending the money would be rampant. Now West Virginia is a focus of inquiries about misuse of “stimulus” funding.

Earlier this summer members of Congress became aware of questionable purchases of electronic equipment from the Mountain State’s “stimulus” allocation. About $24 million was spent to buy more than 1,000 Internet routers to be distributed to libraries, courthouses and other public facilities.

But the routers were far more elaborate than what was needed. Some, meant to handle hundreds of computers, went to places with just handfuls of them. That brought up questions about whether the $24 million was wasted.

Federal lawmakers demanded an investigation, despite state officials’ assurances the money was spent responsibly. The U.S. Department of Commerce is looking into the matter.

Now the state Legislative Auditor’s office is asking questions, too. Auditor Aaron Allred wants to know why normal procedures for awarding such contracts through competitive bidding were not followed. Instead, the routers were purchased from Cisco without bidding.

It is an excellent question, the answer to which will guide his office in deciding whether to continue investigating the purchase, Allred said.

Allred’s office should mount a comprehensive investigation of the router fiasco – which, believe it or not, state officials continue to defend.

If nothing else, the deal was an incredible waste of taxpayers’ money.

It is unfortunate much of the spotlight on waste of “stimulus” money has been focused on West Virginia. In all likelihood, the $24 million misused here is peanuts compared to waste in larger states where much bigger appropriations of “stimulus” money offered more enticing opportunities.

Still, we in the Mountain State should get to the bottom of our own “stimulus” embarrassment. Perhaps a thorough, no-holds-barred probe here will lead to pressure for investigations in other states.