Congress's top auditor said Tuesday that the Commerce Department has been charging other government agencies millions of dollars for reports that the other agencies could just as easily have gotten online, for free.
The Government Accountability Office, releasing its third annual report on duplication in the federal government, said 74 percent of all the reports held by the National Technical Information Service were available elsewhere, usually for free — and often just by a simple Google search.
"The source that most often had the reports GAO was searching for was another website located at http://www.Google.com," the auditors said.
The reports don't amount to much — the agency reported revenues of $1.5 million in fiscal year 2011 — but overall, duplication and waste are likely costing the federal government billions of dollars a year, the auditors said.
In one example GAO said the federal government paid for 679 separate renewable energy programs in 2010. The 2009 stimulus alone created or boosted 157 of the initiatives. Altogether, 23 federal agencies have renewable energy programs.
But the Government Accountability Office said it can't even begin to measure how much overlap there is because the agencies don't keep sufficient records to evaluate that.
GAO said the Defense Department has so many different branches that each pay separately for foreign language services, but if the department were to coordinate it could save hundreds of millions of dollars a year.
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