US government urged to save billions by audit office

22 May 20

The US spending watchdog has told the government it could save tens of billions of dollars by reducing overlap and duplication in its programmes.


The Government Accountability Office has released its latest annual report, stating that the federal government is on “an unsustainable long-term fiscal path”, especially because of its “unprecedented financial response” to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“In a time of growing deficits and debt, it’s vital that government makes the best possible use of every taxpayer dollar,” the report states.

“At the same time, opportunities exist in a number of areas to act as stewards of federal resources, including where federal programmes or activities are fragmented, overlapping or duplicative, or to redirect resources.”

The GAO’s new recommendations include:

  • Strengthening the navy’s acquisition practices and ensuring that contracts are set up in a way that shipbuilders do not make profit from correcting construction mistakes and deficiencies
  • Establishing “a comprehensive approach” to the State Department’s development projects in Central America, to address the problems of limited, inconsistent information about the projects
  • Improving the management of federal gas and oil reserves, which could lead to more than $1.7bn of additional revenue in the next 10 years
  • Increasing efforts to prevent identity theft refund fraud, leading to a predicted saving of “billions of dollars”.

The GAO claimed that in the nine years since it began releasing its annual reports it has helped the government save $429bn.

“I’m extremely proud of the GAO’s work over the past decade to alert Congress and agency officials to opportunities to address fragmentation, overlap, or duplication throughout the federal government,” said Gene Dodaro, comptroller general of the US and head of the GAO.

From 2011 to 2019, the watchdog presented the government with more than 900 recommended actions to consider, and 79% of those actions have been at least partially addressed.

The report said fully implementing some of the GAO’s previous recommendations could yield further large savings.

Those recommendations include:

  • Saving “tens of billions of dollars” by investigating whether some low-activity radioactive waste could be managed as a waste type other than “high-level waste”, which requires expensive treatment and storage
  • Equalising the rates paid for certain healthcare services delivered in the Medicare programme, because payment rates currently vary by location.

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