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Tracking Wasteful Government Spending

Thursday June 26th, 2014   •   Posted by Craig Eyermann at 4:24pm PDT   •  

gao-logo Believe it or not, there actually are people in the federal government whose job is to identify wasteful spending by the bureaucrats who operate federal government agencies. They work for an entity known as the Government Accountability Office (GAO), which publishes an annual report list the various types of wasteful activities that they’ve identified. The MacIver Institute’s Haley Sinklaire explains:

The GAO’s annual report recommends action be taken in order to reduce, eliminate, or better manage fragmentation, overlap, and duplication of programs and their goals in order to achieve costs savings or enhance revenue.

In their first three annual reports from 2011-2013, opportunities to reduce, eliminate, or better manage fragmentation, overlap or duplication; achieve cost savings; or enhance revenue were presented in 162 areas. The GAO also identified about 380 actions that both branches could take to improve programs and save taxpayer dollars.

One suggestion includes the elimination of the overlap of 117,000 individuals simultaneously receiving disability and unemployment benefits, which could save between $3.4 billion and $5.4 billion over a ten-year period.

But have any of the bureaucrats who run federal government agencies ever done anything about the waste identified by the GAO? It turns out that the folks at the GAO have been keeping track — and they have even posted an online application, the GAO’s Action Tracker, that lets anyone see whether the agencies they’ve cited have addressed the issues they’ve raised, partially addressed them, or haven’t addressed them at all. The screenshot below shows the results we obtained on June 25, 2014, when we looked just at the General Government category and checked to see what issues the GAO is scoring as only partially addressed:


Given that most of these issues specifically affect the IRS, which doesn’t seem to take the integrity its own operations very seriously these days, we don’t think that many of these items will be moved into the Fully Addressed column any time soon. But, let’s give the GAO some credit, unlike the watchdogs of the Department of Veterans Affairs, at least they’re doing something to follow up on the problems that have been brought to their attention while also making it public.

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June 2014