- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 19, 2003

The chairman of the House Budget Committee has established a Web site where the public can report incidents of waste, fraud and abuse in federal programs.

It’s a tool, he said, to pressure Congress to keep spending down.

Rep. Jim Nussle, Iowa Republican and chairman of the House Budget Committee, has instructed every committee that controls mandatory spending to find at least 1 percent of waste in their budgets by Sept. 2.

Unlike past years when Republicans have made noise about finding waste in the budget, the backing of the plan by House Majority Leader Tom DeLay of Texas and the committee chairmen gives the proposal some teeth, Mr. Nussle said.

“This is different from a freshman taking on a pet project because he heard about a $500 hammer,” Mr. Nussle said.

Nussle spokesman Sean Spicer said they hope the Web site — www.house.gov/budget/waste.htm — will receive enough examples from the public that complaints from congressmen about not being able to find the savings will ring hollow.

“On September 2, we can say that without even looking that hard, we found this much waste,” Mr. Spicer said. “What’s the problem?”

Budget Committee Democrats said the plan to find waste would “threaten vital services to the American people.”

“Past efforts to identify waste, fraud, and abuse … have often identified not true waste or fraud, but rather policy changes that would, in fact, reduce benefits received by individuals or businesses,” said Rep. John M. Spratt Jr. of South Carolina, the committee’s ranking Democrat.

Mr. Nussle revealed the new feature of the committee’s Web site at a hearing yesterday where David M. Walker, comptroller general of the General Accounting Office, testified about scams and inefficiencies in federal entitlements.

“There has to be constant oversight by the Congress, and frankly, there hasn’t been enough of that,” Mr. Walker said.

Among the examples of waste and fraud Mr. Walker cited were:

• An estimate by the Internal Revenue Service that of the $31.3 billion in claims for the Earned Income Tax Credit in 1999 — given to workers who do not pay federal income tax — as much as $9.9 billion should not have been paid.

• Abuse of a travel card for the Air Force in which $31,000 was charged for vacation cruises, $31,000 for tickets to sporting events and concerts, and $32,000 spent in “gentlemen’s clubs.”

• An inventory of $112 billion in unpaid taxes “with some collection potential” identified by the IRS.

• A drug-procurement system in which Medicare paid $3.34 per dose of a drug that cost 77 cents per dose in most pharmacies.

Indeed, Mr. Walker pointed to a GAO study that found $31.3 billion in identified waste, fraud and abuse in Medicare last year — a detail many at the hearing found interesting as Congress is poised to add on a new prescription-drug entitlement.

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