A recently released General Accounting Office study said the congressional watchdog agency found no sign that waste, fraud and abuse were "systemic or widespread" in a recent review of 35 federal programs that support educational technology, including the E-rate program.
The agency identified 35 programs in eight agencies that could be used by schools and libraries as a source of support for telecommunications and information technology in fiscal 1998. But it said that no two programs had the same goals, strategies or targeted recipients.
The GAO made a calculation of the costs of running each program as a percentage of the program's total costs. Although the E-rate program was the most expensive to run in terms of gross dollars, it was found to have spent only 2.4 percent of its total costs on administration, when the expenses of the Schools and Libraries Division and the pertinent expenses of the Federal Communications Commission were totaled. By comparison, the Commerce Department's Telecommunications and Information Infrastructure Assistance Program devoted 15 percent of the program's total costs to administration, while the Agriculture Department's distance learning and telemedicine grant program spent 13.9 percent of program costs on administration. The Commerce Department objected to the GAO's methodology for making the comparison because it said administrative costs vary, depending on the nature of the program, and because the range of activities included under administrative costs varies among programs.
The FCC told the GAO that two Full-Time-Equivalent agency employees were devoted to oversight of the E-rate program. The SLD reported that it had 15 FTEs of its own, and nearly 200 employees working for contractors handling customer support and application processing.
The study (identifed as GAO/HEHS-99-133) was conducted between August 1998 and May 1999. It can be accessed through the GAO's Web site at http://www.gao.gov.