Press Room

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – U.S. Senator Tom Coburn, M.D. (R-OK) today released an oversight report, “Help Wanted” that highlights examples of waste, fraud and mismanagement in federal job training programs.

The Coburn report accompanies a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, also released today, which shows in fiscal year 2009 nine federal agencies spent approximately $18 billion to administer 47 separate employment and job training programs, all but three of which are duplicative. Despite large federal investments, GAO could not conclude whether or not the programs have had any meaningful benefit. “[L]ittle is known about the effectiveness of most programs,” GAO writes.

“Sadly, thousands of Americans may be putting their hope in job training programs that have no measurable benefit and, in many cases, are being defrauded. With a looming fiscal crisis on the horizon, and unemployment still unacceptably high, it is time for Washington to re-think how we approach these programs,” Dr. Coburn said.

“Too often, job training programs have been designed to help politicians keep their jobs rather than helping the unemployed find jobs. We create new programs with great fanfare then never bother to measure their effectiveness. We simply cannot keep doing things as they have always been done. Unemployed Americans don’t need just need our good intentions. They need us to conduct careful oversight and ask hard questions of programs designed to help people in very difficult transitions,” Dr. Coburn said.

Examples of waste and mismanagement in job training programs include:

  • Grants to Admitted Thief: In West Virginia, Martin Bowling – an admitted thief with a long rap sheet – was the primary beneficiary of a $100,000 federal worker training grant, and was put up for another federal job training grant worth $1 million by his mother, a state official at the time.


  • Tampa Bay Binge: The Tampa Bay WorkForce Alliance in Florida used federal job training funds for self-indulgent binges on food and other extravagances, including: lunch at Hooters, valet parking for lunch at the Cheesecake Factory (topped with $9 dollar slices of cheesecake), $20 delivery fees for cupcakes, $443.99 on flowers, 300 koozie drink
  • holders and more.
  • Luring Youth to Remove Asbestos: A now-defunct California company benefiting from federal funding “knowingly exposing high school students to the cancer-causing agent asbestos under the guise of
  • involving the students in work experience and job training programs.”
  • $4 for Us, $1 for Workers: A Montana trade union, tasked with managing a half million dollar federal job re-training grant, was found to have spent four times as much on salaries than on actual training of displaced workers.


  • Ghost Employees: As youth unemployment soared, a U.S. Department of Labor official was sentenced for approving invoices for a Job Corps contractor – some of which she knew to be false and which billed for ghost employees – in exchange for monetary bribes and a vehicle.


  • Unsafe Conditions, Expired Food, Filth and Cockroaches at Job Corps Facility: Federal investigators found fly riddled garbage, dead cockroaches and other unsafe conditions at the Gainesville, Florida Job Corps operated by DEL-JEN Incorporated. Significant incidents, such as physical assault, and weapons and narcotics possession, also were not reported.


  • State Job Training Executives Scheme Bonuses, Frequent Casinos During Work: Iowa workforce executives conspired to enrich themselves with $1.8 million in bonuses – paid for with federal funds – while engaging in sexual relationships and frequenting casinos during work.


  • Job Training for a Jobless Field: New Jersey was forced to end a $4 million federally funded weatherization job training program after a lack of job demand left trainees without prospects – only seven of the 184 aspiring workers that received training found work in the field.


  • Job Training to Sit on a Bus: In San Francisco, California, graduates of a federally-funded job training program recalled receiving “little training” and having been paid to “sit on a bus.”


  • Job Training Funds for the Already Employed: In Oregon, local companies used federal job training money to pay for training sessions to help the already employed carry out projects.


Click here for Dr. Coburn's full report: "Help Wanted: How Federal Job Training Programs are Failing Workers".

Click here for the full GAO report on federal job training programs.

Click here for a one-page summary of the GAO report's findings on federal job training and employment programs.

Click here for the USA Today article on the reported findings.