- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 13, 2016

From the unemployed double-dipping on benefits to federal agencies leasing cars they don’t need, the federal government is still awash in waste and duplication, the comptroller general said in a new report Wednesday that urged all sides to get serious about cracking down on bad spending and making the government more efficient.

But the good news is that progress has been made, the Government Accountability Office said as it released its annual duplication report, laying out dozens of new areas that need work, and evaluating the Obama administration’s progress on the previous five reports.

Gene Dodaro, comptroller general and head of the GAO, said of 544 recommendations made from 2011 to 2015, more than 40 percent have been fully implemented and another 34 percent are partially done, with projected savings of $125 billion so far.

Still, there’s more to do, he said.

“There are tens of billions of dollars in additional savings to be had in the offing here,” he told the House Oversight Committee.

Part of the waste comes from the government not following through on its own rules — including checking up on those claiming Social Security disability checks. The agency is supposed to conduct a review to make sure people are still disabled, but auditors have fallen behind schedule, and don’t do a good job of prioritizing cases likely to save the most money, investigators said.

Social Security also pays disability benefits to federal employees who receive money from a separate federal compensation fund. Double-payments are allowed, but officials often overpay anyway — to the tune of nearly $100 million a year.

GAO investigators recommended the government do a better job of matching Social Security data with that of the federal compensation fund. Social Security officials say they’re trying to work with the Labor Department to reach an agreement on matching data.

Overall, GAO identified 37 new areas of overlap in the government, and made 92 recommendations to achieve efficiency.

Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz, Utah Republican, wondered why nearly 60 percent of previous years’ recommendations still aren’t fully done.

“Why do we need to come back, year after year, to discuss the same actions?” he said. “Obviously, the federal government has an obligation not to waste taxpayer dollars. We’re pulling money out of somebody’s pocket, and then we’re trying to give it to somebody else and use that — and we got to be very, very cognizant of this wasteful taxpayer spending.”

Some of the GAO’s recommendations seem obvious, but run into political trouble. In 2013 the agency told Congress to revoke part of a 2008 law that assigned catfish inspection to the Food Safety Inspection Service, rather than the Food and Drug Administration, which has jurisdiction over all other fish.

GAO investigators said taxpayers are wasting millions of dollars a year by splitting the inspection duties, with no increase in safety to consumers.

But powerful lawmakers on Capitol Hill have protected the divided duties, hoping FSIS inspections would better protect U.S. catfish producers against international competition.

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