Feds Ignore Watchdog’s Warnings, Cost Taxpayers Billions

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Ethan Barton Editor in Chief
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Federal agencies would save billions of tax dollars if they followed auditors’ suggestions, according to a congressional watchdog.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) gives federal agencies more than 1,000 recommendations to save money and improve performance every year, but around one-fifth of them are ignored, according to a post on WatchBlog.

“As of November 12, 2015, there were about 4,800 open recommendations and matters for congressional consideration for the 24 largest federal departments and agencies,” the post said. “If implemented, they could result in significant benefits across the federal government.”

Closing just one Medicare-related recommendation on payment policy, for example, “could have saved an estimated $3.2 billion to $5.1 billion from 2010 through 2012,” according to the post.

GAO also recommended the Department of Agriculture develop measures to help reduce illnesses caused by pathogen contamination in poultry products, such as ground chicken.

“However, measures and targets have yet to be established, limiting what information is available to the public and reducing oversight and accountability,” even though “chicken and turkey products contaminated with pathogens cause more U.S. deaths than any other food products,” the post said.

Also, GAO has made around 2,000 cybersecurity-related recommendations since 2010, but 840 have been ignored.

“For example, we recommended that the Office of Management and Budget address agency cyber incident response practices in its oversight of agency information security programs,” the post said. “Implementing this and other outstanding recommendations could better protect federal data and federal agencies’ responses to cyber attacks and data breaches.”

But federal agencies refused to make the necessary changes to protect tax dollars, despite the watchdog’s best efforts.

GAO “sent letters to the heads of key executive branch agencies identifying unimplemented recommendations that warrant priority attention,” the post said. “In addition, we work with Congress to make further progress on our recommendations, including incorporating GAO work into legislation.”

Still, the watchdog has played a crucial role in defending tax dollars.

GAO has “averaged 1,800 recommendations a year with an average 80 percent implementation rate between fiscal years 2010-2015,” the post said. “In fiscal year 2015 alone, our work resulted in $74.7 billion in savings – a return of about $134 for every $1 invested in us.”

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