U.S. Senator Joe Manchin seems to be standing by the decisions made, during his time as Governor, that lead to millions of dollars in federal stimulus money being wasted on more than 1,100 computer routers.
“The routers were a long-term investment for West Virginia. We were planning for future growth and wanted to be able to educate our children, create jobs, grow our economy and keep our communities safe well into the 21st century,” Senator Manchin said in a statement on Tuesday.
“As Governor and as Senator, I’ve always believed that it’s important to look beyond the shortsighted goals of today and start building our state’s future.”
Using $24 million in federal stimulus money, the state purchased 1,164 Cisco computer routers, the equipment that connects computer networks.
However, a legislative audit released this week found smaller, less expensive routers would have made more sense for the locations in West Virginia where they were to be used.
The estimate is the state wasted at least $8 million on routers for schools, libraries and State Police barracks that are not even usable in some cases.
“I think that’s a mistake to stand by it because I don’t think it’s defensible,” House Minority Leader Tim Armstead said of Senator Manchin’s statement, defending the expense, on Tuesday’s MetroNews Talkline.
“It’s a colossal waste, probably the most colossal waste of taxpayer money that I’m aware of in West Virginia, one of the most.”
Delegate Armstead, a Republican from Kanawha County, says the money could have been spent in many better ways. “Infrastructure is not just roads and bridges, it’s computer infrastructure too and we don’t have that in West Virginia to the point we need it,” he said.
“We wasted an opportunity with this to do that.”
In the audit, the overspending is blamed on the state Office of Technology and the Broadband Technology Opportunity Program Grant Implementation Team as well as Cisco.
The audit notes the router project was not subjected to the state’s regular competitive bid process.
“I certainly was shocked about the process. I was shocked about the decision. I was shocked that there was no oversight,” Randolph County Senator Clark Barnes said of his response to the audit on Tuesday’s MetroNews Talkline.
He says West Virginia is not alone among states when it comes to blowing a lot of federal stimulus money.
“The millions of dollars that we spent in this state on this program is probably duplicated in many states,” Senator Barnes said.
Senator Manchin’s statement continued with the following:
“Our state had the largest increase in broadband use among all states between 2007 and 2010 and is one of the fastest growing states to expand broadband availability, according to a report that was released just last week.
“If there are things that can be done better or more efficiently, then let’s do it.”
Both Delegate Armstead and Senator Barnes were guests on Tuesday’s MetroNews Talkline. The show originated from the State Capitol ahead of the start of the 2013 Regular Legislative Session on Wednesday.