Government bureaucrats, often portrayed in school as people whose only worry is this nonexistent "public good," are people pursuing their self-interest like any other. And since their expenditures can sometime be refunded, they take advantage of it, as L.A. Care Health Plan has shown recently.
This public agency exists to provide health care for the poorest people in Los Angeles County. That didn't stop them from spending over $8,100 for an executive dinner at a fancy L.A. restaurant, over $58,000 for a Christmas party at an even fancier place, $16,000 in Amex gift cards, and $5,000 in personalized cookies.
CEO Howard Khan defends the expenditures, claiming that is was just to show appreciation for the board, claiming that he runs his agency very well. Really? Then why is it running a $20-million-dollar deficit? Why have administrative costs rose by almost 14% while medical expenditures decreased about 2%?
However scandalous these expenditures can be, the blame shouldn't be put on the individual bureaucrats but on bureaucracy as a whole. Indeed, since this system is supposed to be working on-budget rather than with profits and losses (i.e. responding or not to customer demand), then it tries to spend every penny so it will at least have as much money next year. This explains lavish dinners and peak end-of-year expenditures with most government agencies. If they end up under budget, they will get cuts, and that's the last thing self-interested people want.
Also, since government agencies are usually monopolies, they don't have real incentives to improve their management. So when they make mistakes, bureaucrats rarely get blamed, let alone get fired. Quite the contrary; regulations usually get more numerous when something bad happens, as the bureaucracy expands to meet the needs of the expanding bureaucracy. And so they grow and grow following more and more government mistakes, until socialists see their dream come true: Government controlling every aspect of life.
So how can these wasteful spendings be reigned in? While abolishing those government agencies is the "easy" answer, it won't happen anytime soon, as there are too many entrenched interests at stake. In the mean time, posting the names of every "rich" person on the public payroll would be a start, as Ontario has been doing for 17 years now. And since we pay for public employees' expenditures, we should have an easy access to them, as we can with federal representatives. This way, parties would be much rarer.