At the end of each fiscal year, many federal offices go on spending sprees to use the money remaining in their budgets. The rationale is that if they don't spend everything they asked Congress for they will have their budgets cut in the future.
Use-it-or-lose-it syndrome has been part of government for a long time.
Steps have been taken to improve the budget process, but the last-minute spending is still a fact of life in many agencies.
One reader who writes today to the Monday Morning Quarterback suggests that the federal government could save a bundle if it adopted private industry's method of rewarding, rather than punishing, officials who don't spend every last penny by the end of the fiscal year.
Another reader takes a swipe at federal workers and retirees who are trying to "double-dip" by collecting refunds from two health insurance plans.
*"The most important means of cutting the federal deficit has been overlooked: Simply change the way the government does business. The federal budget policy encourages spending an organization's entire budget -- in spite of changing circumstances that sometimes justify spending less.
"This spending occurs because of the fear that Congress will not restore unspent money in the next budget year. Congress must realize that budgets are figured many months prior to implementation, and are subject to change.
"Policy should be established that unspent money would not affect fund levels in subsequent years. It would reduce the tremendous amount of unnecessary spending that occurs at the end of the fiscal year.
"Since the government is constantly compared with private industry in many respects, why not go all the way? Savings by managers should be encouraged and rewarded, if objectives are accomplished with less.
"Private industry has such incentive plans. Why not the government? This step would help reinforce the policy described above. Both steps would eliminate the goal of every federal organization to spend all of the money in their budgets. The savings would be significant even if shared with management." Concerned Citizen, Northern Virginia
*"I have followed with interest the proposed health premium refunds for 1985 policyholders, and the subsequent class action lawsuit by a group of former Blue Cross-Blue Shield policyholders who got out of the health plan this year but still want a piece of the action. They are asking for refunds based on being enrolled in the insurance plan in 1983 or 1984.
"It occurs to me that some of those individuals may also be enrolled this year in one of the other health plans that is also offering a refund. In other words, they have gone to court seeking 'fairness' (i.e. getting a refund when they didn't participate in a health plan) while attempting to double-dip by collecting refunds from two health plans.
"I am one of those people who stuck with my health plan over the years and paid its high premiums. Now that it is offering a refund, some people who bailed out of the plan one or two years ago now want some of the refund due myself and others. I wonder if they know what they are doing, or if they care?"
J.R., Silver Spring