The purchase by the Department of Agriculture was just one of a series of overspends by US government departments in the last year.
The Fiscal Times reported on what it calls a reckless federal shopping spree in the US, which saw government departments spend around $50 billion during the financial year, with September 30 being the final day of the year on which agencies "use it or lose it", spending the remainder of the cash given to them before the Treasury takes the rest back.
The agencies are said to spend all of their allocated funds because "Congress may not allocate as much the following year", which the sites notes "creates panic for federal workers scrambling to spend millions of dollars before they run out of time", as well as creating a "huge payday for contractors scoring big awards".
The large amount of money spent in the financial year included "impulse buys" on the final day, specifically the Department of Agriculture's outlay of $144,000 on toner cartridges, and the site noted that the Pentagon spent $5.5 billion alone on the final day of the year, with Department of Defense (DOD) officials "even sending an email encouraging employees to spend as much as they could".
This email, which the Washington Post obtained, saw Budget Officer Sannadean Sims and Procurement Officer Kathleen Miller state that "it is critical in our efforts to 100% of our available resources this fiscal year. It is also imperative that your organisation meets its projected spending goal for June".
Analysis of data from 2004 to 2009 by Harvard and Chicago universities saw that 8.7% of total federal spending in the USA occurs in the last week of the fiscal year, and the site notes that since the government spends so much money in such a short amount of time, some people have concerns that hasty purchases could result in problems down the road – like poor product selection.
The research also studied contract performances from 700 IT projects, worth a total of $130 billion, and found that projects awarded in the last week of the fiscal year were 2.2 to 5.6 times more likely to be of lower quality, with this issue able to be resolved if agencies were allowed to roll over their unused funds to the next fiscal year, a proposal similar to one made by President Obama's administration four years ago, though Congress never took it up.
Source: The Recycler