Policy: Budgets & Deficits

Watchdog: GAO says billions can be saved by stopping duplication

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Getting rid of programs that overlap could save the American tax payer billions of dollars annually, according to an annual report by the Government Accountability Office released Wednesday.

The report by the congressional investigative agency, titled "Opportunities to Reduce Fragmentation, Overlap, and Duplication through Enhanced Performance Management and Oversight," identified 31 new areas in which agencies can become more efficient or effective.

In addition, the GAO found areas where costs can be reduced or revenue can grow. Seventeen government areas suffer from program duplication, or allowing multiple agencies to be involved with the same activities. 14 of these 17 have the potential to save money or increase revenue.

The Department of Defense could save $82 million by fixing its combat uniforms program. Coordination between the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Agriculture could help reduce overlap between water programs that combine to cost $4.3 billion. A crop insurance program could save $1.2 billion per year.

In addition to the 300 or so actions identified in the 2011 and 2012 annual report, the recent 2013 report identified 81 more that can be taken by the Obama Administration and Congress.

Canceling the 2013 Medicare advantage quality bonus payment demonstration would save $2 billion, while reducing the net tax gap of $385 billion in Internal Revenue Service could enhance revenue.

The report also suggested that the government can begin better training and evaluating employees, while also improving general management and oversight. Additional actions Congress can take could save taxpayers millions of dollars annually by consolidating programs. For example, eliminating "all direct farm payments starting in Crop Year 2014" could save between $800 million over 10 years to $5 billion annually.

Since the GAO's 2011 annual report, only 12 percent of issues have been addressed, while 66 percent were partially addressed and 21 percent were not addressed. Over the past three years, the executive office has the ability to correct 317 of the 380 total suggested actions to fix the government areas, yet has failed to completely do so.

Kelly Cohen is a researcher/reporter for The Washington Examiner Watchdog investigative reporting team. She can be reached at kcohen@washingtonexaminer.com.

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