Barely half of actions called for by the Government Accountability Office from 2011 to 2017 have been fully addressed, according to the GAO’s 2018 Annual Duplication Report, preventing the government from saving tens of billions of dollars.
“Congress and executive branch agencies have opportunities to contribute toward fiscal sustainability and act as stewards of federal resources. These include taking actions to reduce, eliminate, or better manage fragmentation, overlap, or duplication among federal agencies and programs; achieve cost savings; or enhance revenues,” the report, released April 26, 2018, said.
GAO recommendations can yield significant cost savings for the government, with $73 billion saved based on recommendations made just in 2017.
Congress was the worst offender in not addressing GAO recommendations, with only 31 percent fully addressed and 45 percent not addressed at all.
According to GAO Comptroller General Gene Dodaro, who spoke at a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing on the same day, the Department of Veterans Affairs is also an agency of high concern.
“They need leadership. I’m very worried about the Veterans administration. They have some of the most entrenched management problems in the federal government, that’s why we put them on the high risk list. They’re making efforts to come up with a plan now, but it’s been three years since we put them on the list, and they really haven’t finalized a good plan to come off the list,” Dodaro said.
“We’re working with them ― they’re making progress, I don’t want to say that they’re not ― but there needs to be more urgency to deal with their problems over there. And there’s key vacancies, not only at the secretary level, but also some of the under secretary positions. The CIO is open. So I think Congress should be very concerned.”
Information technology modernization and investment were also central issues across multiple agencies, such as the IRS and Department of Defense.
“I think this is a target rich area for the Congress, and we’re poised to work with you to try to identify more opportunities for savings,” Dodaro said.
Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., committed that he would support appropriations to modernize the IT systems at the IRS in particular. The IRS recently struggled with its Direct Pay system when the online tool broke down on the last day of filing season.
“But it has to be managed properly, and we’ve made a number of recommendations because they’ve wasted investments in the past in IT,” Dodaro said.
Dave Powner, director of IT management issues at GAO, said that the DoD has also failed to realize savings in IT modernization efforts. According to Powner, the department could have saved an estimated of $4.8 billion when data center consolidation efforts began, but has instead only saved a few hundred million dollars.
In addition to a review of past recommendations, the report also introduced 68 new recommended actions across 23 areas of government, including defense, health care and IT.