Congress

Are agencies listening to their watchdogs?

Shutterstock image (by Bacho): Businessman looking through a magnifying glass at a contract.

The Government Accountability Office's top official and inspectors general told members of a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs subcommittee today that they are concerned about agencies not implementing their recommendations.

More than 5,000 recommendations from GAO and IG offices have not been executed by government agencies, particularly the Defense Department, officials told the Regulatory Affairs and Federal Management Subcommittee.

In fact, DOD has "one of the lower response rates of implementing our recommendations," said Comptroller General Gene Dodaro, who has testified more than 150 times to Congress on related matters. He said DOD lies in the 60 percent range while other agencies fall in the 80 percent range.

Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) said it "should be concerning to everybody on the committee."

The Department of Veterans Affairs was another agency of concern to lawmakers. Dodaro said GAO made more than 100 recommendations in the past year, and "there has not been significant progress." He added that he was scheduled to meet with the department secretary this week to discuss his concerns.

Justice IG Michael Horowitz said that for every dollar invested in IG oversight there is a potential savings of $18. According to subcommittee Chairman Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.), GAO's recommendations have saved U.S. taxpayers $74.7 billion since 2003.

But in some cases, those recommendations are difficult to adopt because of security protocols.

For instance, Horowitz said the FBI has vacancies in critical positions related to cybersecurity, partly because government salaries cannot compete with those of industry and partly because applicants must submit to a security background check.

Dodaro agreed. "There are critical skill gaps clearly, and that is part of the issue," he said.

Furthermore, the upcoming presidential election will bring in a new administration with new priorities, and that will slow things down.

"There is a lot of loss of momentum that occurs with a change in administration," Dodaro told lawmakers.

About the Author

Aisha Chowdhry is a former staff writer for FCW.


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