gennady/Shutterstock.com

Saving More, Duplicating Less: GAO Gets Specific With Agencies

Auditors find 31 new areas of agency overlap and potential savings.

In the third of a series of reports on agency waste, the Government Accountability Office on Tuesday identified 31 new areas of overlap and potential for greater efficiency, ranging from duplicative geospatial maps to multiple offices monitoring inspections of catfish.

“Collectively, these reports show that, if the actions are implemented, the government could potentially save tens of billions of dollars annually,” GAO said in a report that was the topic of a House hearing on Tuesday. It also announced the launch of a new publicly accessible website tracking agency progress toward addressing the 131 areas of interagency redundancy that the watchdog has spotlighted over the past three years.

Within the 31 new areas, wrote Comptroller General Gene Dodaro, “we identify eight actions that the executive branch or Congress could take to reduce fragmentation, overlap, or duplication, as well as other cost savings or revenue enhancement opportunities.” GAO acknowledged that “it may be appropriate for multiple agencies or entities to be involved in the same programmatic or policy area due to the nature or magnitude of the federal effort,” but stressed that the areas it highlighted for attention --17 for duplication and 14 for potential cost savings -- “may be creating inefficiencies.”

Since GAO’s first report on duplication and waste in 2011, the report said, the executive branch has successfully addressed 16 of GAO’s areas of concern, partially addressed 87, and failed to address 27. Of 300 actions GAO previously recommended within these areas, 65 were addressed; 149 were partially addressed; and 85 were not addressed.

GAO’s report, according to an administration official, confirms the progress that has been made on 75 percent of the past recommendations, and the GAO is aware that many of the actions to reduce duplication will require years to carry out.

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., praised the nonpartisan agency’s work in an opening statement for the hearing, saying his own panel had been “responsive” to many of GAO’s recommendations. “At a time of increased budget pressure, American taxpayers cannot afford to keep buying the same service twice,” he said.

But Issa added that the report contains “no detailed cost-saving associated with each recommendation. This is because federal agencies often cannot tell us how much money is spent on a particular program. Federal agencies also lack meaningful performance metrics for programs. In fact, federal agencies cannot even provide a simple list of all programs in their own agency.”

Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., the panel’s ranking member, told the hearing that “Congress is doing a much poorer job than the executive branch in implementing” GAO’s recommendations.

The Office of Management and Budget, the GAO report noted, has undertaken coordination of the first-ever inventory of all federal programs, scheduled for completion in May.

Some precise figures on savings were offered on Tuesday by Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., ranking member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, who has worked closely with GAO on efforts to attack waste. In a Tuesday statement he estimated that recommendations in the new report could save the government a total of $95 billion annually. Examples Coburn gave included a count of 679 renewable energy initiatives at 23 federal agencies and their 130 sub-agencies that cost taxpayers $15 billion in fiscal 2010; and 76 programs to prevent or treat drug abuse that are spread across 15 agencies, costing $4.5 billion in fiscal 2012.

"From day one, the president has made rooting out waste and improving the way government works a top priority," said an Obama administration statement on GAO’s work from U.S. Controller Danny Werfel. "The president's 2014 budget will include new proposals to reorganize programs and streamline and strengthen services, building on the hundreds of proposals the president has proposed each year to cut, consolidate or save money on programs that are no longer needed."

GAO’s specifics included finding six components within the Homeland Security Department involved in research and development. Auditors examined 50 related contracts and found “35 instances among 29 contracts in which the contracts overlapped with activities conducted elsewhere in the department. Taken together, these 29 contracts were worth about $66 million,” GAO said, adding that two DHS components awarded five separate contracts that each addressed detection of the same chemical. “Moreover,” the report said, “DHS did not have the policies and mechanisms necessary to coordinate or track research and development activities across the department.”

The Internal Revenue Service, GAO said, could improve its effort to reduce the gap between what taxpayers owe and what the agency collects by completing “a broad strategy, including a timeline and performance measures, for how it intends to use information collected to improve tax compliance.”

In general, GAO advised agencies to curb waste and duplication by improving planning; measuring performance and results (as required under the 2010 Government Performance and Results Modernization Act); stepping up use of strategic sourcing in procurement; improving management oversight, particularly of information technology acquisitions; and seeking legislative changes. On changes that require congressional action, the report gave as an example the fact that three agencies --the Agriculture Department, the Food and Drug Administration, and the National Marine Fisheries Service -- all inspect the nation’s catch of catfish.

(Image via gennady/Shutterstock.com)

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.