Duplicate catfish inspection costing you millions

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Some members of congress have had their fill of catfish, which is one of the reasons why a lawmaker wants to create a new bipartisan congressional commission to root out waste.

By KAI JACKSON
Fox San Antonio

WASHINGTON - Taxpayers are worried about government waste. A Reason-Rup poll earlier this year found that Americans believe the government wastes about half of every dollar it receives.

For fish industry expert John Connelly, inspecting catfish has become as fishy as any federal program in Washington.

“Should the USDA do this job when the FDA has already done a great job?” asked Connelly.

The USDA's catfish inspection program has cost taxpayers more than $20 million since it was created in 2008. Six years in and the USDA has inspected...

“Zero catfish,” explained Connelly. “So what are taxpayers getting for their money? They are getting screwed is what they are getting. Because you are going to end up getting two regulators inspecting the same kind of facility.”

That's right, inspectors from both the FDA and USDA will stand side by side in many instances inspecting fish. On top of it, the National Marine Fisheries Service also inspects catfish. The FDA, as it has done for more than 30 years, will continue to examine fish, except for catfish like Basa that's imported from Vietnam.

The government's chief watchdog, the Government Accountability Office, has told congress on six occasions about all the waste and duplication.

“We made a recommendation and said we don't need three agencies doing this work,” said Nicole Clowers from the GAO. “Let's take a step back and not have this third agency do that work.”

The catfish boondoggle inspired Congressman Doug Collins to conceive of a bipartisan congressional commission called 'CARFA' or the Commission on the Accountability and Review of Federal Agencies. It would have teeth that the GAO doesn't to eliminate federal programs.

Representative Collins was set to talk to us about CARFA, but an hour before our interview he canceled it. Collins did appear on C-Span to talk about CARFA. You can watch the discussion here...

That's part of the problem government watchdogs say. Congress talks about eliminating waste, but when push comes to shove fails more often than not to act.

“The first line of defense should not be to create these wasteful and inefficient programs to begin with, but when that fails taxpayers need a commission,” said David Williams from the Taxpayers Protection Alliance.

Why did the USDA lobby so aggressively to inspect only catfish? Well, in a short statement to us, the USDA says it's concerned about food safety with all of the foreign and homegrown catfish now flooding the American market.

Connelly says it's the fish equivalent of hogwash.

“It's strictly in order to create a trade barrier to prevent competition,” said Connelly.

So what's the bottom line?

“The consumer is going to pay for it because its going to up the price when you got two inspectors looking at one item,” said Paul Harrison, a manager at Jessie Taylor Seafoods.

Duplicate catfish inspection costing you millions
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