Wednesday, April 25, 2007

It's easy being green...

...when you can make a few bucks on the side, in Washington DC:

The Washington Post reports (Apr 23) that the entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well among the bureaucrats of Washington DC, even at the IRS. They've been trading transit vouchers like crazy - to the tune of at least $17m, probably much higher according to the Government Accountability Office GAO).

Transit vouchers called Metrocheks are designed to encourage WDC workers to ride the Metrorail or bus system by providing free rides up to $105/month. They are a tax-free fringe benefit, and are paid for by employers - in practice almost entirely by federal government departments and agencies, wanting to earn 'green' brownie points for encouraging transit use.

The civil servants have been taking the vouchers, even auctioning them on eBay, selling them by word of mouth and at the entry to busy rail stations, while continuing to drive their cars to work - often to free parking spaces in federal buildings.

.... The [GAO] report produced these examples:

- a USDOT man receiving the maximum amount of transit subsidies since 2004 who gets a ride with a neighbor or slugger and otherwise rides his motorcycle - sold $1,080 of Metrocheks on Ebay

- a couple working at the Department of Defense each received Metrochek cards but drive to work together - they sold 61 lots of Metrocheks worth $6k on eBay

- the IRS worker who had got the Metrochek cards and also a free parking space at work since 2004 who sold cards for $930

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