Tuesday, October 16, 2007

File as 'underappreciated': The venerable toilet seat

$600 Toilet Seat

There was a man who computed his taxes for 1997 and found that he owed $3407. He packaged up his payment and included this letter:

Dear IRS:

Enclosed is my 1997 Tax Return & payment. Please take note of the attached article from the USA Today newspaper. In the article, you will see that the Pentagon is paying $171.50 for hammers and NASA has paid $600.00 for a toilet seat.

Please find enclosed four toilet seats (value $2400) and six hammers(value $1029). This brings my total payment to $3429.00. Please note the overpayment of $22.00 and apply it to the 'Presidential Election Fund', as noted on my return. Might I suggest you send the above mentioned fund a '1.5 inch screw'. (See attached article - HUD paid $22.00 for a 1.5 inch Phillips Head Screw.)

It has been a pleasure to pay my tax bill this year, and I look forward to paying it again next year. I just saw an article about the Pentagon and 'screwdrivers'.

Sincerely,

(Name withheld to protect the innocent)

From Wikipedia:

In 2004 Senator Chuck Grassley (R Iowa) said: "I exposed the spending scandal in the ‘80s when federal bureaucrats saw no problem in spending $600 for a toilet seat . . .". Some now claim that neither that nor his also famous revelation of the Pentagon spending $400 for a hammer actually ever happened. Others say the prices paid were fair and justifiable.

The $600 dollar toilet seat was determined to be "fair and reasonable" by a Naval Contracting Officer, based on his detailed knowledge of the manufacturing processes and degree of effort known to be required from the vendor, to manufacture this item.

The United States military services are often in the position of making equipment last decades longer than originally designed. For example the B-52 bomber is more than 50 years old and expected to be useful for another 20 years. The famous toilet seat came about when about twenty Navy planes had to be rebuilt to extend their service life. The onboard toilets required a uniquely shaped fiberglass piece that had to satisfy specifications for the vibration resistance, weight, and durability. The molds had to be specially made as it had been decades since the planes original production. The price of the "seats" reflected the design work and the cost of the equipment to manufacture them.

The problem arose because the top level drawing for the toilet assembly referred to the part being purchased as a "Toilet Seat" instead of its proper nomenclature of "Shroud". The Navy had made a conscious decision at the time, not to pay the OEM of the aircraft the thousands of dollars it would take to update their top level drawing in order to fix this mistake in nomenclature.

Later some unknown Senate staffer combing lists of military purchases for the Golden Fleece Awards found "Toilet Seat - $600" and trumpeted it to the news media as an example of "government waste." The Senate then wrote into the appropriations bill that this item would not be purchased for anything more than $140.00. The shroud has never been purchased since, as no one can make the shroud at that price.

President Reagan had actually held a televised news conference, where he held up one of these shrouds. During the press conference, he explained the true story. The media of the time, and still today, incorrectly reports that the Pentagon was paying $640.00 for a $12.00 toilet seat.

From Sen. Charles Schumer:

NEW HALLIBURTON MISCUES REVEALED: $45 CASES OF COKE, "$85,000 OIL FILTERS", EMPLOYEES PAID NOT TO WORK

Whistleblowers' statements confirm: Halliburton gouging the federal government at every turn - from laundry service to supply truck repairs; Haliburton defying Army orders and inflating prices by up to 300%

Schumer, Durbin, Waxman call on the GAO to launch a full investigation into all Haliburton contracts and requisitions

Halliburton equivalent of the "$600 toilet seat" uncovered

US Senators Charles E. Schumer and Richard Durbin and Congressman Henry Waxman today revealed shocking examples of jaw-dropping price gouging and extraordinary waste by Halliburton and its subsidiaries that have put our men and women in uniform at risk and cost Americans billions in misspent tax dollars. Pointing to Halliburton's equivalents of the famed "$600 toilet seats", including $45 dollar cases of coke and "$85,000 oil filters". Based on these reports Schumer, Durbin and Waxman called for a full investigation by the GAO into every Halliburton contract and requisition...

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