Inspectors general echo themes of government reform

Financial management, information technology, acquisition reform and human capital are some of the major challenges facing agencies, several inspectors general testified Thursday before a House panel, repeating what is quickly becoming the mantra for government reform advocates. Members of the House Subcommittee on National Security, Veterans Affairs and International Relations brought in the IGs to discuss waste, fraud and abuse at nine federal organizations: the Defense, State, Energy and Veterans Affairs departments; NASA; the Federal Emergency Management Agency; the Agency for International Development; the Peace Corps; and the International Trade Commission. "Recurring themes ring through each IG's description of wasteful information technology acquisitions, antiquated human capital policies, sloppy financial controls and the lack of performance-driven, results-oriented management," said subcommittee chairman Christopher Shays, R-Conn. According to Robert Lieberman, deputy IG at the Defense Department, the most serious problem at the Pentagon is that funding shortfalls have led to a decline in military readiness. "Many of the programs [Defense] needs to perform its core functions are under-funded," Lieberman said. Veterans Affairs IG Richard Griffin said the department's major problems include benefits application backlogs and $61 million in overpayments of benefits. The lag time between agreeing to adopt reform recommendations and the actual implementation of recommendations is the problem at NASA, according to that agency's IG, Roberta Gross. At FEMA, the main impediment to financial management reform is that officials have yet to recognize the agency has problems in its financial systems, said Deputy Inspector General Richard Skinner. The problems identified at the hearing date back several years, and legislators have vowed to force change during the 107th Congress. Sen. Fred Thompson, R-Tenn., recently declared that he would step up efforts to tie agencies' budgets to performance objectives. The fiscal 2002 budget blueprint issued last month by President Bush did not include provisions that link federal agencies' funding to management performance. An administration official said the Bush team has not had time to integrate management reforms into its fiscal 2002 budget proposal. "Waste, fraud, abuse and mismanagement threaten vital national missions and undermine public confidence in government," Shays said.
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