The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has reported federal government fraud and waste increased from fiscal year 2013 to fiscal year 2014.
Improper payments rose by $18.9 billion, or 17 percent.
The minority of government agencies that complied with GAO’s cost-cutting recommendations over that period reduced their spending by a total of $20 billion.
Leslie Paige, vice president for policy and communications at Citizens Against Government Waste, says the problem of government fraud is getting worse.
“What we are seeing is only the tip of a massive government-waste iceberg, the kind that sank the Titanic,” Paige said.
“Both in percentage of federal outlays and dollars, improper payments are moving in the wrong direction,” said Paige. “While the GAO report makes mention of the $20 billion in financial benefits, the $19 billion in increased losses essentially wipes that out completely … not to mention that the GAO reminds us that not all agencies are in compliance with the improper-payments reporting rules, so that $19 billion in losses is essentially a lowball figure.”
Agencies Ignoring the Problem
Taxpayers Protection Alliance President David Williams says cracking down on improper payments is important.
“Billions of dollars are being wasted just because the federal government isn’t halting improper payments,” Williams said. “The GAO report shows that many agencies know exactly how much is being wasted, yet they choose not to fix the problem.”
“There is no common sense in the fact that agencies know where the waste is but refuse to fix it,” Williams said. “It is also about good government, because the more these improper payments remain unfixed, the more people who need these payments may get squeezed out. Congress needs to do real oversight and punish agencies that don’t fix the problems that have been identified.”
Losing Track of the Numbers
Williams says the vast size of government causes people to lose track of the numbers involved.
“There would be more attention and outrage if somebody would waste $20 out of every $100 rather than $20 out of $1,000,” said Williams. “The fact of the matter is that $20 is still being wasted. At the government level there are billions of dollars at stake. It is never acceptable to knowingly waste billions of dollars, but as the government grows, bureaucrats and politicians become more numb to the waste of a billion dollars.”
Williams says increasing government spending causes fraud and waste to look small by comparison.
“First, the more the government spends, the more money they have to waste,” Williams said. “Second, when the government grows exponentially, one billion dollars is a smaller percentage of a larger budget.”
Alexa Moutevelis Coombs ([email protected]) writes from Washington, DC.
Romina Boccia, “Federal Spending by the Numbers, 2014: Government Spending Trends in Graphics, Tables, and Key Points (Including 51 Examples of Government Waste),” The Heritage Foundation: https://heartland.org/policy-documents/federal-spending-numbers-2014-government-spending-trends-graphics-tables-and-key-po/