The Government Accountability Office acts as the watchdog for the federal government, keeping constant oversight on departments and agencies. But sometimes, even GAO needs some extra weight behind it.
The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform held a hearing yesterday, addressing GAO’s 2014 report on duplicative federal programs. Testimony was heard from the U.S. Comptroller General Gene Dodaro.
The message was straightforward: Congressional involvement is welcome.
Participation by Congress is “absolutely essential,” according to Dodaro. He said more oversight and follow through on that enforcement would help the situation.
The 2014 Annual GAO report found that of 389 specific actions made by GAO in the last two years, 123 — or about one-third — have been fully addressed. There would be tens of billions in savings if all of GAO’s recommendations had been implemented.
Dodaro looked to the example of the Government Performance and Results Modernization Act of 2010 as an initiative that could have done more. He said agencies were perhaps given too much flexibility by the Office of Management and Budget. To date, there is not an adequate inventory of federal programs, a component the act called for, he added.
“We have to put pressure on OMB and agencies,” Dodaro said.
The tools put in place by OMB are good, but the adoption and follow-up need improvement, according to Dodaro. He said these programs can fall through the cracks because of attention to different priorities at OMB.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., cited the administration’s PortfolioStat program as an example of a program that could save the government billions of dollars.
“GAO’s work shows us that there are additional opportunities to improve IT spending through bipartisan oversight,” Cummings said in his opening statement.
The biggest obstacle in identifying cost savings is a lack of transparency and consistency. Dodaro said the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act would alleviate some of these issues.
The DATA Act got the thumbs-up in the House early this year and is rumored to pass in the Senate this week.
Had the DATA Act been passed years ago, Dodaro said everyone’s job would be considerably easier, and there would be far less duplication.