Congress: Do we need all those GAO reports?

The Government Accountability Office says it has saved the government billions through its investigations and reports, but the watchdog agency may be producing less of those in coming years if some lawmakers get their way.

On June 20 Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), chairman of the Senate subcommittee on federal financial management introduced the GAO Mandates Revision Act, which would cut down on the number of “unnecessary and outdated congressionally mandated” GAO audits and reviews, according to a press release from Carper’s office. The bill is co-sponsored by Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), homeland security and governmental affairs committee chairman, and ranking member Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine).

“My subcommittee on federal financial management relies heavily on the [GAO] to identify areas of waste and reduce inefficiency within the federal government, and I think it is time we adopt a similar effort to reduce redundant or unnecessary requirements for the [GAO],” Carper said in the release announcing the proposed legislation. “Streamlining the requirements that Congress places on the [GAO] will allow this critical agency to continue to focus its limited resources on its most important work and help Americans get a better bang for their taxpayer buck.”

According to the release, GAO is weighed down by inefficiencies such as annual reviews requested by Congress that have no end date and must be continued until the original statute is changed. It lists as one example ongoing reviews of an export-import allowance program for Haiti said to be virtually inactive.

It isn’t the first time Congress has looked to make cuts to GAO. Last year Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) introduced a bill to make deep cuts in the 2012 budget to the legislative branch, including the GAO, but was met with harsh criticism by other lawmakers.

The agency escaped the worst cuts in the 2012 budget, but now could face further financial peril in 2013. Its 2013 budget requests a 2.9 percent increase, which Nelson in a March 15 Senate hearing said “may be too much growth” given the current budgetary climate, according to a Federal News Radio report.

According to the GAO, $526.2 million was requested for fiscal 2013 to support a staffing level of 3,100 – the lowest in more than 75 years. The agency noted that it has yielded the government financial benefits of $45.7 billion, a return on investment of $81 for every dollar invested in GAO.

About the Author

Amber Corrin is a former staff writer for FCW and Defense Systems.

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Reader comments

Sun, Jul 1, 2012 Alpharetta, GA

GAO gets an external financial audit yearly through private auditing firms of repute, is subject to self audits through an Inspector General, and receives a comprehensive audit by a select group affiliated with the International Organization of Supreme Audit Institutions triennially. Just because you think a GAO review is redundant does not make GAO's review redundant. Auditors have specific scopes and objvectives they are trying to achieve and do not overlap as a general rule (with some exceptions mandated). All of GAO's strategic information is available on its web site. Instead of trying to raise some doubt without any proof, find proof of something, then develop opinions. That's generally what GAO does.

Fri, Jun 22, 2012

I was in an organization which was the subject of 3 simulatneous and largely redundant GOA audits. Not only did it waste our time - it wasted the time of the auditors. Who audits the auditor to be sure that the claimed 45B in savings is true? Easy to claim a number like that - much harder to actually find 45B returned to the treasury... In a vast majority of cases, GAO claims responsibility for "findings" which the audited agency already knew were problems and was working to fix.

Fri, Jun 22, 2012 Carl Metzger Springfield, VA

To all private and public sector analysts trying to remain abreast of current and rising issues in the Federal Government, GAO reports and testimonies are least partisan, sound in analysis, plus highly significant and pertinent. They have been for many years and for many legislative bodies and executive branch agencies. GAO deserves maximum funding, respect, and kudos for their contributions to good government.

Thu, Jun 21, 2012 Hampton E. Brown III United States

As the article clearly states, GAO is doing it's job for Congress in as much as OMB does it for the President. If GAO's budget is cut, then it simply means that Congress needs to figure out how they want to manage their resources. It's not a them and they choice as the article implies.

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